The Nordic Civil Sphere

The Nordic Civil Sphere ~ a Conference and Book Project

Hosted by the Center for Cultural Sociology, Linnaeus University, Sweden.

The Civil Sphere (Jeffrey C. Alexander 2006) is general theory, an empirical-cum-normative model designed for universal application. Conceptualizing the cultural and institutional foundations of a democratic life, the work introduces a new social fact – the civil sphere – and a new model to explain how it works: Its cultural codes and institutional structures, simultaneously including and excluding; its often tense boundaries with non-civil spheres in the social surround; the social dynamics triggered by these contradictions, the longue durée social movements and hair-trigger crises and scandals that create conditions for civil repair - new institutions and cultural understandings that widen the reach of civil solidarity even as they create backlash reactions that threaten to narrow it.

The Nordic countries have a distinct welfare regime arising from a history of social democratic values, and active political structures working towards equality and increased social mobility. What are the legacies of these cultures and social structures for the formation of contemporary Nordic civil spheres? Is there a Social democratic-cultural twist on, or version of, civil sphere discourse? What are the contemporary tensions in the different Nordic countries concerning new right and nationalist movements, class, gender, national minorities, religion and the dominant secular tradition, mass communication and so forth? How do Nordic civil spheres process global issues as terrorism and immigration on local and national levels? Contemporary challenges for the premises of democracy, justice, and civil solidarity will be addressed in this conference and book project. Examining the civil sphere in social settings outside the United States, this conference will not only apply Civil Sphere Theory but creatively elaborate and revise it.