The Transformation of the Scandinavian Voluntary Sector

  • Bernard EnjolrasEmail author
  • Kristin Strømsnes
Part of the Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies book series (NCSS)


The Scandinavian civil societies have several characteristics that distinguish them from other types of civil society regimes. This includes high organizational density and a high level of participation in voluntary organizations (membership and volunteering); a democratic organizational model where organizations operate within a structure of local, regional, and national chapters; and a corporative pluralistic system characterized by state-friendliness and close collaboration between the state and the civil society. In this chapter, we discuss how exogenous processes of change, like increased individualization, digitalization and immigration, and endogenous processes of change like alterations in public policy, may influence on how the Scandinavian civil society model functions. This chapter provides a historical and conceptual framework for understanding the changes going on and gives arguments for why Norway is a good case for discussing these changes.


Civil society Volunteering Voluntary sector Civic participation Voluntary organizations Social change Modernization Institutionalism Democracy Advocacy 


  1. Abbot, A. (1997). On the concept of turning point. Comparative Social Research, 16, 85–105.Google Scholar
  2. Baer, D. (2007). Voluntary Association involvement in comparative perspective. In L. Trägårdh (Ed.), State and Civil Society in Northern Europe (pp. 67–125). New York, NY: Berghahn Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, U., Giddens, A., & Lash, S. (1994). Reflexive modernization. Politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Berggren, H., & Trägårdh, L. (2006). Är svensken människa? Gemenskap och oberoende i det moderna Sverige. Stockholm, Sweden: Norstedts Förlag.Google Scholar
  7. Berggren, H., & Trägårdh, L. (2010). Pippi Longstocking: The autonomous child and the moral logic of the Swedish welfare state. In H. Mattsson & S.-O. Wallenstein (Eds.), Swedish Modernism: Architecture, Consumption, and the Welfare State (pp. 10–23). London, UK: Black dog publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Beveridge, L. (1949). Voluntary action. London, UK: George Allen & Unwin LTD.Google Scholar
  9. Castells, M. (Ed.). (2004). The Network Society. A cross-cultural perspective. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  10. Collier, R. B., & Collier, D. (1991). Shaping the political arena: Critical junctures, the labor movement, and regime dynamics in Latin America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dekker, P., & van den Broek, A. (1998). Civil society in comparative perspective: Involvement in Voluntary Associations in North America and Western Europe. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 9(1), 11–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Neuman, W. R., & Robinson, J. P. (2001). Social implications of the Internet. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 307–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DiMaggio, P., & Powell, W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48, 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Egeberg, M., Olsen, J. P., & Sætren, H. (1978). Organisasjonssamfunnet og den segmenterte stat. In J. P. Olsen (Ed.), Politisk organisering: organisasjonsteoretiske synspunkt på folkestyre og politisk ulikhet. Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  15. Esping-Andersen, G., & Korpi, W. (1987). From Poor Relief to Institutional Welfare States: The Development of Scandinavian Social Policy. In R. Erikson, E. J. Hansen, S. Ringen, & H. Uusitalo (Eds.), The Scandinavian model. Welfare states and welfare research (pp. 39–74). New York, NY/London, UK: M. E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  16. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity. Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  17. Grendstad, G., Selle, P., Strømsnes, K., & Bortne, Ø. (2006). Unique environmentalism. A comparative perspective. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  18. Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ivarsflaten, E., & Strømsnes, K. (2013). Inequality, diversity and social trust in Norwegian Communities. Journal of Election, Public Opinion and Parties, 23(3), 322–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Janoski, T. (1998). Citizenship and civil society. A framework of rights and obligations in liberal, traditional, and social democratic regimes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Klausen, K. K., & Selle, P. (1996). The Third sector in Scandinavia. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 7(2), 99–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kuhnle, S., & Selle, P. (1990). Meeting needs in a welfare state: Relations between government and voluntary organizations in Norway. In A. Ware & R. E. Gooding (Eds.), Needs and welfare (pp. 165–184). London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Kuhnle, S., & Selle, P. (1992). Government and voluntary organizations: A relational perspective. In S. Kuhnle & P. Selle (Eds.), Government and voluntary organizations. A relational perspective (pp. 1–33). Aldershot, UK: Avebury.Google Scholar
  24. Lipset, S. M., & Rokkan, S. (1967). Cleavage structures, party systems, and voter alignments: An introduction. In S. M. Lipset & S. Rokkan (Eds.), Party systems and voter alignment: Cross-national perspectives (pp. 1–64). New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lundström, T., & Wijkström, F. (1997). The Nonprofit Sector in Sweden. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Mahoney, J., & Thelen, K. (Eds.). (2010). Explaining institutional change. Ambiguity, agency and power. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Morales, L., & Geurts, P. (2007). Associational involvement. In J. W. van Deth, J. R. Montero, & A. Westholm (Eds.), Citizenship and involvement in European democracies. A comparative analysis (pp. 135–157). London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Onarheim, G. (1990). Organisasjonar for funksjonshemma og tilhøvet til det offentlege. In S. Kuhnle & P. Selle (Eds.), Frivillig organisert velferd – alternativ til offentlig? (pp. 69–91). Bergen, Norway: Alma Mater.Google Scholar
  29. Owen, D. (1964). English Philanthropy. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  30. Pettersen, S. V., & Østby, L. (2013). Scandinavian comparative statistics on integration. Immigrants in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Samfunnsspeilet, 5, 76–83.Google Scholar
  31. Pierson, P. (1993). When effect becomes cause: Policy feedback and political change. World politics, 45(04), 595–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pierson, P. (2004). Politics in time: History, institutions, and social analysis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  34. Rainie, L., & Wellman, B. (2012). Networked. The new social operating system. Cambridge/London, UK: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  35. Rokkan, S. (1966). Norway: Numerical democracy and corporate pluralism. In R. A. Dahl (Ed.), Political opposition in western democracies (pp. 70–115). New Heaven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Rokkan, S. (1967). Geography, religion, and social class: Crosscutting cleavages in Norwegian politics. In S. M. Lipset & S. Rokkan (Eds.), Party systems and voter alignments (pp. 367–444). New York, NY: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rokkan, S. (1970). Citizens, elections, and parties. New York, NY: David McKay.Google Scholar
  38. Rothstein, B., & Stolle, D. (2003). Introduction: Social capital in Scandinavia. Scandinavian Political Studies, 26(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Salamon, L. M., & Anheier, H. K. (1998). Social origins of Civil Society. Explaining the nonprofit sector cross-nationally. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 9(3), 213–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schofer, E., & Fourcade-Gourinchas, M. (2001). The structural contexts of civic engagement: Voluntary Association Membership in comparative perspective. American Sociological Review, 66(6), 806–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Seip, A.-L. (1981). Om velferdsstatens framvekst: artikler. Oslo, Norway: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  42. Seip, A.-L. (1984). Sosialhjelpsstaten blir til. Norsk sosialpolitikk 1740–1920. Oslo, Norway: Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  43. Selle, P. (1993). Voluntary organisations and the welfare state: the case of Norway. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 4(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Selle, P. (1999). The transformation of the voluntary sector in Norway. In J. W. van Deth, M. Maraffi, K. Newton, & P. F. Whitley (Eds.), Social capital and European democracy (pp. 144–166). London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Selle, P., & Øymyr, B. (1995). Frivillig organisering og demokrati: Det frivillige organisasjonssamfunnet endrar seg 1940–1990. Oslo, Norway: Det Norske Samlaget.Google Scholar
  46. Statistics Denmark. (2016). Indvandrere i Danmark 2016. Retrieved from
  47. Statistics Norway. (2017). Key figures for immigration and immigrants. Retrieved from
  48. Statistics Sweden. (2016). Sveriges framtida befolkning 2016–2060. Retrieved from
  49. Stenius, H. (2010). Nordic Associational life in a European and an inter-nordic perspective. In R. Alapuro & H. Stenius (Eds.), Nordic Associations in a European perspective (pp. 29–86). Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stoker, G. (2004). Transforming local governance. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Strømsnes, K., & Wollebæk, D. (2010). The strange coexistence of passive memberships and high social capital in Scandinavia. In R. Alapuro & H. Stenius (Eds.), Nordic Associations in a European perspective (pp. 151–168). Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Thelen, K. (2004). How institutions evolve: The political economy of skills in Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Trägård, L. (2007). State and civil society in northern Europe. The Swedish model reconsidered. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  54. Trägårdh, L. (2010). Rethinking the Nordic welfare state through a neo-Hegelian theory of state and civil society. Journal of Political Ideologies, 15(3), 227–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Try, H. (1985). Assosiasjonsånd og foreningsvekst i Norge. Forskningsoversyn og perspektiv. Øvre Ervik, Norway: Alvheim & Eide Akademisk Forlag.Google Scholar
  56. van Deth, J. W., Montero, J. R., & Westholm, A. (Eds.). (2007). Citizenship and involvement in European democracies. A comparative analysis. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. van Dijk, J. (2006). The network society. London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  58. Wijkström, F., & Zimmer, A. (Eds.). (2011). Nordic Civil Society at a cross-roads. Transforming the popular movement tradition. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.Google Scholar
  59. Wollebæk, D., & Selle, P. (2002). Det nye organisasjonssamfunnet. Demokrati i omforming. Bergen, Norway: Fagbokforlaget.Google Scholar
  60. WVS. (2017). Findings and Insights – Live cultural map over time 1981 to 2015. Retrieved 01.03.2017 from

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Comparative PoliticsUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

Personalised recommendations