Alternative Paths to the Welfare City: Public Services, Inclusion and the Common Good in Nordic Capital Cities 1870–1920
This project presents a new approach to the study of welfare cities in the Nordic countries, c. 1870–1920. During this period, local politicians abandoned the traditional ideal of financial austerity in order to tackle the social problems following rapid urbanisation. The purpose is to analyse and compare political debates in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Kristiania/Oslo and Helsinki in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Municipal politics followed a general trend: City boards assumed responsibility for services perceived to be vital for economic development and the citizens’ wellbeing. The aim of the project is to identify the discursive changes triggering this development by studying the arguments and concepts used in political language. The case-studies cover both infrastructure and social services. By examining both policy areas, the project cover the economic research on infrastructure as well as historical research on welfare services. Thus, we may provide a complete picture of how practical policies was linked to perceptions about social inclusion and the common good. Today, the concept of welfare cities is widely discussed; how cities and urban communities may lead the way in reforming social and environmental policy when national governments fail. By analysing how capital cities led the way in formulating a more inclusive policy around 1900, the project “Alternative Paths to the Welfare City” will make an important contribution to this discussion.