chapter  7
20 Pages

A welfare “regime of goodness”?

Self-interest, reciprocity, and the moral sustainability of the Nordic model
WithKelly McKowen

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Given the international interest in the Nordic model, particularly in the wake of the recent global financial and Eurozone crises, understanding its effect on norms is critical to determining both how it functions and whether it should be seen by others as a standard to which to aspire. This chapter aims to contribute to the broader study of the “moral sustainability” of the Nordic model with a close examination of one antisocial pattern of welfare-claiming, so-called naving, in contemporary Norway. Drawing on comparative statistics and the author’s own ethnographic data, the chapter casts doubt on naving as a pervasive empirical phenomenon and sign of moral climate change among users of the Norwegian welfare state. Instead, it offers a counter-interpretation that emphasizes the productive role that the naving discourse may play in promoting prosocial patterns of welfare-claiming. The chapter concludes by suggesting that the greatest moral threat to Norway’s welfare state – and, by extension, its iteration of the Nordic model – is the possibility that naving will be uncritically accepted by elites or the public as incontestable evidence of weak work ethics, rampant material self-interest, or calculating behaviour among some or all users of the welfare system. Such a reductive “folk anthropology”, it is argued, could potentially justify reforms toward a nastier, less admirable, indeed, less “good” welfare state.