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Aleksanteri Conference







Bringing the Post-War "Grand Narratives" together: the Cold War and the Welfare State

The Cold War and the Welfare State count among the top themes of the post-1945 history. This applies to the Nordic countries and Europe, in particular, but both topics are of broader relevance too. The so-called welfare state is not, nor should it be seen, as a solely Scandinavian phenomenon. Welfare models have been discussed around the globe and were an important element in international developmental aid programmes of the Cold War decades. On the other hand,  Norden – often seen as the realm of welfare, prosperity and stability, the “Nordic balance” of the Cold War decades –  was by no means a region that would have remained intact by the bipolarizing economic, political, social and ideological tensions of the time. The “inter-systemic” qualities of the Cold War conflict shaped agendas, social and political activities not only on the highest state level but on the “softer” and non-governmental levels alike, among those willing to involve and those aiming to keep distance.

Coincidence of the “Golden Age” of the welfare state (ca. 1945-1975) and the Cold War is obvious but simplistic conclusions are not in order: the welfare state cannot be explained by the Cold War or the other way round.  The panel aims to locate multilayered contact zones between two seminal fields of research and, at the same time, rethink the epistemological, methodological and geographical bases on which these “schools of thought” rest. The students of both the Cold War and the welfare state have been criticised for taking the nation-state as granted, and for the propensity to certain pre-fixed geographical categorisations, such as the East / West, North /South, “advanced”/“developing” world. The papers of the panel identify and discuss the potential contact zones between the two “grand narratives” of the post-1945 era in varying geographically defined perspectives and view their topics as embedded in wider international and transnational contexts. The proposed panel is a part in a series of international workshops examining the meeting zones of the two “Grand Narratives” of the post-1945 history. The colloquiums are organised by the Nordic Centre of Excellence: The Nordic Welfare State – Historical Foundations and Future Challenges (NCoE NordWel) in cooperation with the University of Oslo, which will the host the final conference in Oslo in 2010.

Thursday 29 Oct 16.15-18.15 Session 3