Announcement of first keynote speaker: Professor Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University
“The Past, Present and Future of the Danish Social Investment Society from a Comparative Perspective”
Keynote by Professor Cathie Jo Martin, Boston University
The Nordic countries seem to have it all: high per capita GDP, limited inequality, low unemployment, a favorable business climate, and renowned social solidarity. The Danish social investment society has deep historical roots, which are reflected in the very different ways that British, Danish and French fiction writers depict education and poverty in works dating back to 1700. Poor, rural Denmark was a leader in public, mass primary education (1814) and strong vocational training programs precisely because education was associated with building a strong society. Industrial Britain developed late mass education and no systematic upper-secondary vocational training because schooling was a vehicle for self-development (initially for upper/middle classes); mass schooling was enacted only with mass suffrage.
These fictional narratives about education also shed light on Denmark’s comparative advantage in equality and social solidarity. British writers sought equal access to education; yet, their celebration of protagonists, who triumph over injustice with self-determination, made it easier to blame those who fail and permits growing inequities. Danish authors sought social investment in school to build society rather than redistribution for individuals. Neglect of low-skill youth was viewed as a waste of societal resources and a threat to social fabric. High socioeconomic equality was a fortuitous but felicitous side effect of this mandate to educate all the people.
Today Denmark may be forgetting the formula for growth with social solidarity that contributed to its remarkable rise in the industrialized world. The postindustrial “lean and mean” political economy makes a generation of young people scramble for a shrinking pool of good jobs. Under pressure to adopt a neoliberal education regime, Denmark is struggling to sustain its education model. There is a growing concentration of the truly disadvantaged and people of color are disproportionately excluded from the core economy. Young Danes who have failed to complete a degree beyond Folkeskole are much more alienated and unhappy than Brits with the same educational attainment. They do not obtain the skills they need for their future employment and feel unhappy with the one-size-fits-all education (Martin 2017). The hectic individualism of neoliberalism – and the culture of self-blame – make it easy to dismiss those who are ill-equipped to compete in the postindustrial economy. Yet as episodes of terror and instability constantly remind us, individual losers may well be society’s losses.
About Cathie Jo Martin
Cathie Jo Martin is professor of Political Science at Boston University, president of the Comparative Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, director of the BU Center for the Study of Europe and former chair of the Council for European Studies. Her book with Duane Swank, The Political Construction of Business Interests (Cambridge 2012) received the APSA Politics and History book award. In 2013-2014, she co-chaired with Jane Mansbridge an APSA presidential task force on political negotiation, which produced Negotiating Agreement in Politics (Brookings 2015). Martin is also author of Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment Policy (Princeton 2000), Shifting the Burden: the Struggle over Growth and Corporate Taxation (Chicago 1991), and articles in the American Political Science Review, World Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Socio-Economic Review, Governance, Business History Review, Regulation and Governance, Politics and Society, and Polity among others. She has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Russell Sage Foundation, BU Center for the Humanities and University of Copenhagen; and has received grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, German Marshall Fund, Danish Social Science Research Council, Boston University Hariri Institute for Computing and National Science Foundation. She holds affiliated professor positions with the University of Oslo, Southern Denmark University and Copenhagen Business School. She received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987. Professor Cathie Jo Martin has a long-standing interest in Denmark’s political economy that is apparent in her scholarly contributions. She is part of the coterie of international scholars who raise Denmark as an exemplary case of combining social justice and economic growth, and yet are cognizant of the contemporary stresses on the Nordic societies.
Martin’s current book project, “Imagine All the People,” explores a puzzle of education system development: poor, rural Denmark is a leader in public, mass primary education (1814) and strong vocational training programs, but industrial Britain lags in both. With computational text analyses and archival evidence, Martin shows that fiction writers are under-acknowledged political actors in this story of contrasts. From the early 1700s, education is designed to build a strong society in Danish narratives and this adds urgency to school expansion. British writers portray education as a vehicle for self-development (for upper/middle classes); mass schooling is enacted only with mass suffrage.
Narratives about education shed light on equality and social solidarity. British writers seek equal access to education; yet, their celebration of protagonists, who triumph over injustice with self-determination, makes it easier to blame those who fail and permits growing inequities. Danish authors seek social investment in school to build society rather than redistribution for individuals. Neglect of low-skill youth is viewed as a waste of societal resources and a threat to social fabric. High socioeconomic equality is a fortuitous but felicitous side effect of this mandate to educate all the people.