The Nordic Civil Sphere
The Nordic Civil Sphere
The civil sphere is a distinctively democratic field in modern societies, one that sustains universalizing cultural aspirations and organizational structures and that has tense and uncertain boundaries with other spheres of social life, like the economy, religion, family, and state.  Unlike the latter, which are more particularistic and hierarchical in character, the civil sphere defines itself in terms of solidarity – the feeling of being connected with every other person in the collectivity.  The utopian ideals of democratic solidarity shape every modern society, even if they are often compromised by the messy realities of social life.
This volume uses the theory of the civil sphere to shed new light on Nordic societies, while at the same time drawing on the distinctive experiences of the Nordic nations to reflect on and advance the theory of the civil sphere.  Nordic societies have long been admired for creating a distinctive form of social democracy, but this admirable achievement has not been well conceptualized theoretically.  Most attempts to explain Nordic social democracy focus on material and organizational factors.  This volume, by contrast, emphasizes the cultural foundations and characteristics of social democracy, demonstrating how civil sensibilities are necessary for the creation of an egalitarian and democratic state.  Nordic civil spheres, however, are not only pro-civil but also white in color, European in ethnicity, secular in character and gender-equal in a subtly restrictive manner.  Such primordialization of state civility is vividly on display in the sometime tense relationships that develop among natives and “foreigners” in Nordic countries, relationships that expose the primordial undersides of the social democratic codes and civil values that constitute the Nordic civil sphere.

A major contribution to the theory of the civil sphere and to our understanding of the cultural and normative underpinnings of social and political life, this volume will be of particular interest to students and scholars of sociology and politics.
Show More
Buy Now


Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • January 2020
  • 368 pages
  • 148 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509538836
  • Paperback $26.95
  • 9781509538843
  • Open eBook $22.00
  • 9781509538850
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: Civil Spheres, Pro-Civil States, and their Contradictions
Jeffrey C. Alexander, Anna Lund and Andrea Voyer

Part I. Social Democracy and Civil Sphere

1 The Civil Sphere and the Welfare State
Henrik Enroth and Malin Henriksson

2 Nordic Civil Spheres and Pro-Civil States
Fredrik Engelstad and Håkon Larsen

3 Complicated Translations
Liv Egholm

 Part II. The Struggle for Recognition: Performing Civility

4 You Can’t Liberate the Free: Gender, Work and Swedish Hijabis
Henrik Nilsson and Åsa Trulsson

5 Arts Difference and Incorporation: Swedish Hip-hop as a Site for Civil Repair
Carly Elizabeth Schall

6 Sámi Sport in the Nordic Civil Sphere: Assimilation, Multiculturalism and Multiple Axes of Membership
Eivind Å. Skille and Trygve B. Broch

Part III. Civil and Uncivil Immigrant Identities
7 ‘They’re immigrants who are kind of Swedish’: Universalism, Primordialism, and Modes of Incorporation in the Swedish Civil Sphere
Anna Lund and Andrea Voyer

8 Immigrant Incorporation in Education: High School Students’ Negotiation of Belonging
Stefan Lund

Part IV. Nativism and Extremism in the Pro-Civil State

9 Global terrorism and the Civil Sphere in Norway: Renegotiating Civil Codes
Marte Slagsvold Winsvold and Kari Steen-Johnsen

10 The True Finns/Finns Party: A Right-wing Populist Party and the Backlash against Multiculturalism in a Consensus-oriented Civil Sphere
Peter Kivisto and Pasi Saukkonen

Commentary: The Civil State in the Nordic Region, and Beyond
Carlo Tognato

Conclusion: Developing Civil Sphere Theory the Nordic Way
Giuseppe Sciortino and Trevor Stack
About the Author
Jeffrey C. Alexander is Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University
Anna Lund is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Stockholm University
Andrea Voyer is an associate senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Stockholm University
Show More


"The Nordic Civil Sphere deserves to be widely read, not only by students and by scholars who are interested in the particularities of the Nordic civil spheres, but by anyone interested in how the civil spheres of the Global North shape democracy, welfare, values, and processes of inclusion and exclusion."
Acta Sociologica
Show More