Norway, located at the northern periphery of Europe, shows interesting features at first sight that deserve a more detailed analysis. The well-known but for many people scarcely understandable truth that the country has refused for 35 years to enter the European Union is one particular attribute. Yet, without holding that membership, Norway has experienced a rapid economic growth in the same period, guiding the 4,7 million citizens to one of the richest societies worldwide. The annual growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) increased quickly which also enabled the government to largely expand the welfare state ( ƵēĂƌ Θ <ƵŚŶůĞ ; ĚƐ͘Ϳ͕ ϭϵϵϰͿ͘
In this essay the mass beliefs and attitudes of the Norwegian society will be portrayed and compared to the “democratic character” of people defined by political scientists. Beforehand, a short description of the degree of democracy measured by the Freedom House serves as an objective insight into the conditions of the country.
Lasswell (1951) developed several indicators which signalize a “democratic character”, such as an open ego, a multi-valued character, confidence in human potentialities and, above all, freedom from anxiety. According to Almond and Verba (1963), psychological orientations towards the political system have a crucial impact in terms of stability of the state and its political objects. Postmaterialist and self-expression values represent additional criteria for a democratically mature society. All those will be taken briefly into consideration in order to examine the main question that is tackled here: How “democratically compatible” is the population of Norway?
MONITORING NORWAY: THE FREEDOM HOUSE REPORT
Being a founding member of NATO in 1949 also as a reaction to the emerging threat of the communist Soviet Union assumes the general idea of the country having considered itself unambiguously as a democracy from the very beginning of its existence after the Second World War. This hypothesis can be affirmed in general with various data provided. Especially the latest Freedom House report on Norway provides impressing results which objectively show the high value of democracy in that country, not only by awarding it the best score overall in “Political Rights” and “Civil Liberties” but also by illustrating this outcome through several examples. Thus it is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, freedom of press, peaceful assemblies and associations, and an independent judicial body are constantly guaranteed. The Sami minority is granted special rights including language programs and separate forms of media. Furthermore, a recently introduced law seeks to promote gender equality by reserving a minimum of 40% of the board of directors of a company for women (“Freedom House,” 2007).
POLITICAL INTEREST AND PARTICIPATION OF THE PEOPLE
That objective performance implies a pronounced support of the democracy by its sovereign i.e. the population. In “Making democracy work”, Putnam argues that good institutional performance is related to a “Civic Community” which actively takes part in political issues (Putnam, 1993). The data verify this idea in the case of Norway. People’s interest in politics represents a first fundamental element. Almost 70% of the Norwegians claim to be politically interested in a very high, respectively relatively high degree in a survey carried out in 1996 (World Values Surveys Online Database WVS 1996). That percentage, however, has declined during the last years. The European Social Survey of 2006 (ESS3 2006) shows that the part of the population being “very interested” or “quite” interested has gone below 50%. Yet, compared to the other listed democratic European countries this result is still positive, as Norwegians thereby support their democratic system.
People also make use of their democratic rights which is manifested by nearly two thirds of the Norwegian citizens that affirmed to have signed a petition at some point in their lives (WVS 1996). 37,6% did so within the last 12 months which is a high outcome in comparison to other countries (ESS3 2006).
In addition to this observation, a crucial supplement should be mentioned. As Barnes & Kaase et al. (1979) concluded, unconventional political action has to be non-violent in order to signify self-expression values and to avoid an undermining of the democratic system. Norwegians actively take part in peaceful, orderly demonstrations, as 8,3% participated within the last 12 months (ESS3 2006) and 26,1% protested at least once in their life (WVS 1996). Nevertheless, the support of measures that include occupying buildings or factories is regarded as the wrong way to take political action. A large majority of 87,9% replies it “would never do” so (WVS 1996). That refusal is a clear evidence for the unconventional, but lawful behavior of the Norwegian society, thus having a character highly compatible with a democracy.
In figure 1, an overview is presented concerning the turnout of the elections for the Norwegian Parliament which has the name “Storting”, from 1900 until 2005.
Figure 1; Source: Statistics Norway 2005
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One can recognize an overall increase of casting of votes during throughout the 20th century including several peaks over 80%. The elections in 2005 also had a decent turnout of 77,4% (Statistics Norway 2005). This statistic demonstrates the will of the Norwegian citizens to participate in the given political set-up in a conventional, institutionalized way, as well.
- Quote paper
- Anonymous, 2007, Assessing Mass Beliefs and Level of Democracy in Norway, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/175313