The four mainland Scandinavian countries-Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden-defy easy generalization despite their obvious similarities. Their differences, indeed, appear if anything to be becoming greater. According to one recent study, 'the notion of a common “Scandinavian model” seems futile', while The Economist, in a survey of 'The Nordic alternative' published in November 1987, confined its attention to Norway, Sweden, and Finland on the grounds that Iceland was 'too small to matter to anybody other than the Icelanders', whilst Denmark, the only Scandinavian member of the European Community, was coming increasingly under the influence of Brussels and Frankfurt (Mjøset 1987:403; The Economist 1987a:3). The very existence of such a survey, however, suggests that in the late 1980s the Scandinavian countries are being taken seriously in a way that they have not been, perhaps, since the early 1970s-though for rather different reasons. At that time foreigners chose to discern in Scandinavia (and in Sweden in particular) either the model post-industrial society or the Huxleyan nightmare of Roland Huntford's The New Totalitarians (Tomasson 1970; Huntford 1971). Now they are intrigued by the durability of the postwar Scandinavian achievement. It seems clear that the essence of that achievement-the creation of societies which are both rich and egalitarian, in which consensus is valued more highly than confrontation, and in which an extensive welfare state coexists with a competitive private sector-has survived the economic upheavals of the last decade and a half (Scandinavian Studies 1987).
This is an outcome which would have seemed improbable ten years ago. In the late 1970s the world looked on, not without a certain schadenfreude, as Scandinavian growth faltered and politics became more turbulent. Economic policies began to diverge sharply as Sweden and Norway tried to spend their way out of crisis-a strategy which worked in the short term for oil-rich Norway, but not for Sweden-while Finland and, to a lesser extent, Denmark, went in for policies more attuned to a harsher economic climate