A Model of Social Security? The political usage of Scandinavia in Roosevelt’s New Deal

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This essay provides historical perspective to Senator Bernie Sanders’ appropriation of elements of the Nordic model in the 2016 campaign by studying how Scandinavia was used as a political image in 1930s United States. Departing from previous scholarship, this essay argues that accounts of Scandinavian achievements were variable in their ideological outlook and sometimes deliberately challenged the existence and goals of New Deal policies. Moreover, this essay explores the usage of Scandinavia in New Deal social legislation by examining the policymaking rhetoric of the Social Security Act and its 1939 amendments. The surprising plasticity of the Scandinavian image amongst policymakers ultimately reveals the fluid nature of both New Deal-era politics and the Scandinavian images it appropriated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of History
Pages (from-to)363-388
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2017

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