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The Cradle of Norwegian Equality and Egalitarianism: Norway in the Nineteenth Century

  • Jan Eivind Myhre
Chapter
Part of the Approaches to Social Inequality and Difference book series (ATSIAD)

Abstract

The chapter contends that Norwegian social equality and egalitarianism—measurable equality and the ideology of equality—find their roots in the nineteenth century. Contemporary egalitarianism began with the liberal Constitution of 1814 with its wide franchise, liberal principles concerning citizens’ rights and the abolition of nobility. The worship of the Norwegian peasant was part of nationalism with a harmonizing content. Equality had several dimensions. There was equality before the law. Freedom of expression and to pursue business was somewhat restricted, but, together with freedom of religion, was liberalized in mid-century. The wide franchise gave to the vote to 40 percent of adult men, giving the peasants and other groups beyond the elite of higher civil servants a say in politics. Freedom was valued higher than equality, but personal freedom was also an equalizer, economically, politically and socially. Compulsory schooling, making the population literate, together with widespread voluntary associations, acted as social levellers. The civil servants were to some degree a legitimate elite, due to building of an infrastructure benefitting all and a relative non-corrupt governance.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Eivind Myhre
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, Conservation and HistoryUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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