International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

2010 Edition
| Editors: Helmut K. Anheier, Stefan Toepler

Civil Society and Social Capital in Scandinavia

  • Karl Henrik Sivesind
  • Per Selle
Reference work entry


The Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, are characterized by high levels of trust, volunteering, participation in voluntary organizations and a political culture that combines equality, national solidarity, and individual autonomy. The Scandinavian countries are in many comparative studies ranked on top when it comes to social capital (Rothstein, 2002), organizational participation (Dekker & van den Broek, 1998), and civil society’s vitality (Salamon et al., 2004). The popular movements have been important for the development of these characteristics. The first part of the article goes through some common features in Scandinavian history. The second part looks at volunteering, social trust and civic engagement in recent studies. In the last part theoretical explanations of the findings are examined.

Civil Society

Civil society, through voluntary associations and popular movements, has played a significant and distinctive role in the building of democracy,...

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References/Further Readings

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl Henrik Sivesind
    • 1
  • Per Selle
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Comparative PoliticsUniversity of BergenBergenNorway