Varieties of Scandinavian universalism: A comparative study of welfare justifications

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Attitudes research shows that the Scandinavian, universal welfare regime receives strong popular support. Why the inhabitants consider this universal model of welfare appropriate is, however, all but unknown. This paper explores the level of welfare attitudes and welfare legitimacy to investigate the cultural standards of worth which justify the universal welfare state to people in Sweden and Denmark. A total of 115 qualitative interviews conducted in Denmark and Sweden in 2013–2014 are analysed to determine and compare the principles of valuation Danes and Swedes employ in evaluating their universal welfare states. Findings include a general cross-country consensus on generalised reciprocity; however, Swedes emphasise security and emancipation, while, in contrast, Danes emphasise societal efficiency and risk pooling.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Sociologica
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Welfare attitudes
  • comparative interview study
  • justification
  • moral economy
  • universal welfare regime


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