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dc.contributor.advisorGreenhouse, Carol J-
dc.contributor.advisorBiehl, João-
dc.contributor.authorMcKowen, Kelly-
dc.contributor.otherAnthropology Department-
dc.description.abstractFollowing the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, international observers turned to the Nordic countries for a model of the “good society.” Their interest has revolved primarily around the region’s social democratic welfare model, wherein an extensive public sector provides comparatively generous cash transfers, social services, and healthcare “from cradle to grave.” While politicians wonder at the model’s replicability, social scientists and historians tease out its ideological and political origins, effects on material and psychological outcomes, and challenges in a post-industrial, migratory, and increasingly interconnected world. Where popular and scholarly concerns intersect is on the point of the “work ethic.” Skeptics worry that adopting a Nordic-style social safety net, whatever its merits, would imperil the economic incentives of work, fostering dependency and passivity. Based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Oslo, Norway between 2014 and 2017, this dissertation examines the relationship between the welfare system, the everyday lives of the unemployed, and the shared moral imagination of labor. The study’s principal finding is that the Norwegian welfare model is not morally corrosive. Rather, through the experience of life events like unemployment, it cultivates a distinctive “employment ethic” that affixes value to moderating one’s use of the welfare system and working in the formal sector. This suggests that the qualitative variation in welfare systems, documented by comparative scholars, is associated with qualitative variation in the moralities of work and worklessness. The Norway depicted in this dissertation is not static. The twilight of social democratic hegemony has unleashed new ideological currents and political actors. A strong petroleum sector has increased the material standard of living, revolutionizing leisure time and stimulating consumerism. Finally, immigration—of foreign workers, refugees, family members—has introduced greater ethnocultural diversity and thorny questions about identity, belonging, and integration. These changes have led to debates about the compatibility between the social democratic welfare model and the ethical commitments of for-profit welfare service providers, young people, and immigrants. This dissertation argues that of these three groups, only for-profit welfare service providers are motivated by a conception of “the good” that conflicts with that of Norway’s social democratic welfare model.-
dc.publisherPrinceton, NJ : Princeton University-
dc.relation.isformatofThe Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog: <a href=> </a>-
dc.subjectThe State-
dc.subject.classificationCultural anthropology-
dc.subject.classificationScandinavian studies-
dc.titleMoral Fiber: An Ethnography of Unemployment, Ethics, and the Social Safety Net in Norway-
dc.typeAcademic dissertations (Ph.D.)-
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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