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Just Society

Critical Perspectives on the Nordic Model: The Rule of Law and Welfare Nexus

JUST SOCIETY is organizing a series of webinars that critically assesses the ‘Nordic model’ to understand how strong state institutions can promote equality.

The ‘Nordic model’ captures an encompassing and redistributive welfare system based on free market capitalism, rule of law, inclusive participation, and a strong state. A distinctive trait of the Nordic model is the achievement of universal access to social security policies and equal access to justice. The Nordic model has been glorified with Francis Fukuyama suggesting that all countries should be like ‘Denmark’. However, is all well with the Nordic model? And what would be the relevance of the Nordic experiences to countries in the Global South?

In its webinars, JUST SOCIETY opens for a discussion on these questions and for critical investigations into different aspects of the Nordic model. The webinars facilitate an interdisciplinary and intercontinental dialogue between legal and social science experts on the Nordic model and experts from selected Global South countries.

Time for all webinars: Odense 01:00 PM, Johannesburg 01:00 PM, Bangalore 04:30 PM, Brasilia 08:00 AM, Tbilisi 03:00 PM



Equal Access in the Nordic Model?

Thursday 15 April 2021, 13.00-14.15 (CET)

The webinar confronts the idea of universal access to welfare and equal access to justice to further the understanding of both social and legal equality in the Nordic countries.


Presentation by Klaus Petersen, Professor of Political Science and Director of Danish Centre for Welfare Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark.

The presentation discusses possible tensions between equality and the concept of universalism, which constitutes one of the cornerstones of Nordic welfare states. Whereas equality points towards redistribution and targeted interventions, universalism prescribes uniform social rights as the distributive principle and universal access to the collective social security arrangements. In his presentation, Klaus Petersen outlines the development of the Nordic welfare model and its approach to social security and discusses how universalism is practiced today focusing on the Nordic model’s ability to provide effective access to welfare benefits and services.


Presentation by Frederik Waage, Professor of Constitutional Law, Department of Law, University of Southern Denmark.

The presentation focuses on equality and access to justice from a rule of law perspective. Access to justice concerns inter alia the extent to which the state ensures that institutions are equally accessible to all so that people may vindicate their rights or resolve disputes under the general auspices of the state. It also involves citizens’ access to judicial review, including the possibility to challenge a government decision and invoke the protection of human rights before the courts. In his presentation, Frederik Waage assesses the challenges of access to justice in Denmark with perspectives to other Nordic countries.


Discussion by Sophie Plagerson, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, and Elmarie Fourie, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Head of Department of Public Law, University of Johannesburg.

The discussants of the two presentations will comment on how (well) the Nordic model, and its ideas of universalism and equal access, travel to the Global South.


The webinar is chaired by Marianne S. Ulriksen, Associate Professor of Political Science and Project leader of JUST SOCIETY, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark.

Criminal Justice and the Nordic Model

Wednesday 5 May 2021, 13.00-14.15 (CET)

The webinar discusses the relationship between criminal law and the welfare state with focus on the social implications of Nordic approaches to criminal proceedings, punishment, and crime prevention.


Presentation by Kerstin Bree Carlson, Associate Professor of International Law, Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University.

Drawing from two recent, highly publicized and controversial criminal cases – the 2020 Bornholm murder case and the 2018 terror case against Danish foreign fighter Adam Johansen currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights, Kerstin Bree Carlson's presentation addresses the relationship between Danish criminal law and wider social constructions of race, citizenship, and belonging in Denmark.


Presentation by Peter Starke, Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark.

To confront the idea of Nordic welfare states that social policies are effective means to prevent criminal behavior, Peter Starke demonstrates in his presentation the impact of welfare state size and structure on comparative crime rates and discusses whether all welfare state programmes are equally worthy of attention when the goal is to target the structural causes of high crime.


Discussion by Juliano Zaiden Benvindo, Associate Professor of Constitutional Law and Head of Center for Comparative Constitutional Law, University of Brasilia, and Pablo Holmes Chaves, Associate Professor of Political Theory, Institute of Political Science, University of Brasilia.

The discussants of the two presentations will compare justice in the Nordic model with criminal justice systems in Brazil.


The webinar is chaired by Christian Prener, Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Law, University of Southern Denmark, and part of JUST SOCIETY.

Public Administration in the Nordic Model

Thursday 27 May 2021, 13.00-14.15 (CET)

The webinar addresses the role of public administrative authorities in the Nordic model when it comes to ensuring equal access to justice and welfare for the individual citizen.


Presentation by Stine Piilgaard Porner Nielsen, Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Law, University of Southern Denmark.

With the emergence of the Scandinavian welfare states, access to justice is increasingly dependent on ways in which public administrative authorities perform their tasks of advising citizens about welfare rights and making decisions regarding the allocation of welfare benefits to the population. Using unemployment support in Denmark as an example, Stine Piilgaard Porner Nielsen discusses in her presentation potential pitfalls of this expansion of the mandate of public administrative authorities and asks how it affects the achievement of welfare rights in the Nordic context.


Presentation by Matthias Döring, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark.

The presentation assesses access to welfare services from the perspective of the citizen. Welfare services demand various tasks from citizens, such as decoding bureaucratic language to understand requirements and eligibility criteria as well as having basic knowledge about where to turn to for help and advice. Drawing on his research on the provision of unemployment benefits in the Nordic countries, Matthias Döring focuses in his presentation on such “administrative burdens” experienced by citizens in their encounter with public administrative authorities and questions whether administrative burdens are equally distributed across the population.


Discussion by Archil Abashidze, Associate Professor of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Ilia State University, and Giorgi Meladze, Associate Professor of Public Law and Director of Center for Constitutional Research, Ilia State University.

The discussants of the two presentations will compare public administration in the Nordic model with the public administrative system in Georgia.

The webinar is chaired by Louise Munkholm, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark, and part of JUST SOCIETY.

Taxation in the Nordic Model

Wednesday 16 June 2021, 13.00-14.15 (CET)

This webinar nuances the often-assumed role of taxation in the Nordic welfare states as highly redistributive based on a solidarity principle. It will discuss implications of recent decades’ tax reforms in the Nordic countries for inequalities and whether these experiences are relevant for the Global South.


Presentation by Åsa Gunnarsson, Professor of Tax law, Department of Law of Umeå University

During 40 years of tax reforms, Sweden has seen a neoliberal turn in its tax system, moving away from a solidarity principle towards the idea of taxation as punishment. The consequence has been a shift in the tax burden on a structural level. Who has paid for these tax reforms and what are the implications for inequalities? Based on her research on gender impacts of the tax system and the Horizon 2020-project FairTax, Åsa Gunnarsson will discuss these changes in the Swedish and Nordic tax systems and, from there, draw some more general, global conclusions relating to the Sustainable Development Goals and a human rights perspective.


Presentation by Michael Baggesen Klitgaard, Professor of Political Science, Department of Politics and Society, Aalborg University

As a dominant source of revenue, broad-based taxation is not just a key feature; it is a sine qua none of the Nordic Model. However, do our ideas of the role of taxation in the Nordic Model align with the reality? Based on an analysis of where revenue comes from in Denmark and how this aligns with who gets what in the welfare state, Michael Baggesen Klitgaard will argue that the Nordic Model is not a highly redistributive “Robin Hood”-type Model as is often assumed. This argument is further elaborated in a discussion of the role of tax scandals as key drivers of recent tax reforms with possible consequences for legitimacy of the tax system and the welfare state more broadly.


Discussion by Dr. Anup Pujari, Professor of Public Policy, Institute of Public Policy, and Sony Pellissery, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), both at National Law School of India University, Bangalore

The discussants will comment on the two presentations, provide comparative perspectives from taxation in India and critically assess the relevance of the Nordic experiences for India.


The webinar is chaired by Ane Karoline Bak, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark, and part of JUST SOCIETY.


Download the webinar programme

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Last Updated 22.08.2023