ABSTRACT

John Pratt claims that the roots of Scandinavian exceptionalism ‘are to be found in the highly egalitarian cultural values and social structures of these societies’ (Pratt 2008: 120), central components being a strong welfare state built on belief in social engineering and expert rule. My argument in this chapter is rather the opposite – Scandinavian exceptionalism consists not in egalitarian values but rather in a ‘culture of intervention’, and that this ‘culture’ is a requirement for the development of a strong welfare state built on social engineering and expert rule. When the prison was introduced in the Scandinavian countries during the nineteenth century the main ambitions and arguments were social reform, the betterment of the prisoners and prevention (Lundgren 2003; Nilsson 1999; Smith 2003; Schaanning 2007). The prison was a pedagogical project brought on to educate the lower classes morally. The hopes and expectations were big and the prison was seen as something utterly modern (Nilsson 2001; Lundgren 2003: 79). It was a way, as Schaanning (2007) put it, not of punishing less but of punishing more efficiently. The prison, alongside public schooling and problems such as pauperism, was the beginning of a government revolving round and directed at the population and above all the betterment of the same. It was a government built on a rationale that equalized the wealth of the nation to the health of the population, thus making the ‘care of’ the population into the principle question of government.