Nordic Moral Climates: Value Continuities and Discontinuities in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden

By Jamieson, James W. | Mankind Quarterly, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Nordic Moral Climates: Value Continuities and Discontinuities in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden


Jamieson, James W., Mankind Quarterly


Nordic Moral Climates: Value Continuities and Discontinuities in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden Ulla V. Bondeson Transaction Books, 2007

Scandinavia has long been regarded as characterized by a high level of morality, although extra-marital sexual activity is popularly regarded as high in contemporary Sweden. However, the author of this book, Ulla Bondeson, does not include sexual behavior as a moral issue, and concentrating on general attitudes towards other values finds that public scandals are of a smaller magnitude than in many other countries, and more often related to the decisions and behavior of politicians. Bondeson has been professor of criminology at the University of Copenhagen since 1980 and was previously professor of sociology of law at Lund University.

Based upon a survey of representative samples of public opinion in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, the book combines data on attitudes toward crime, justice, equality, tolerance, social, religious and political values, all of which she treats as moral issues. Indeed, its subtide, stressing values and attitudes rather than morality, seems more appropriate to the content of the book than does its short title. A trend analysis illustrates the stability of these attitudes over time.

The survey of the four Scandinavian countries shows Finland to be rather different from its more Germanic neighbors, though that may be due more to geography than ethnic history. Finland has in recent decades had far less contact with other peoples from around the world, and this may well account for the differences: it remains more idealistic. In all four countries it is the home environment, far more than religion, that is regarded as determining morality. But while 80% of respondents in Denmark, and around 75% in Norway and Denmark, name home as the prime institution upholding morality, as opposed to law or even less significantly religion, only 40% of Finns attribute the same importance to the home. …

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