Reproduction and the Welfare State: Notes on Norwegian Biopolitics
Norway has long been considered to be a bastion of social democracy due to its strong, protective, decommodifying welfare state. However, with the recent rise of neoliberalism and right-wing populist politics across the West, this Northern European society has gradually shifted from Keynesian Fordism to a moderate form of neoliberalism. This political-economic pivot has also resulted in a transformation of what Foucault termed biopolitics: a politics concerned with life itself. In early 2019, leading politicians in Norway’s centre-right coalition government placed the problem of the declining fertility rate on the national agenda and framed the problem of biological reproduction in ways particular to their political-ideological perspectives. The Conservative Party discussed reproduction in terms of producerism, or the problem of supplying the welfare state with labouring, tax-paying citizens. The Progress Party emphasised ethnonational exclusion, engaging in racial denigration with the aim to ensure the reproduction of ‘ethnic Norwegians’. The Christian Democrats highlighted a conservative Christian ‘right to life’ topos amidst growing secularisation and pluralism. All three parties signalled a turn from traditional social-democratic ideologies. Neoliberalism has proven to be malleable, able to fuse with a wide range of biopolitical programmes including moral exhortations, ethnonational exclusion and religious discourse to approach the problem of reproduction. However, this post-social-democratic approach generally is unwilling to provide material security through large-scale social expenditures and universal welfare institutions, preferring instead to address the ‘hearts and minds’ of the populace. Consequently, the fundamental cause of sub-replacement fertility—the gradual proliferation of ontological insecurity—remains unaddressed.
Adorno, T. W. (2000). Introduction to sociology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Aftenposten. (2019, January 18). Ropstad—klarer du å bære frem ett barn, klarer du to. [Ropstad: “If you can carry one child, you can carry two.”]. Retrieved from https://www.aftenposten.no/norge/i/OnK0MA/Ropstad--Klarer-du-a-bare-frem-ett-barn_-klarer-du-to
Arendt, H. (1998). The human condition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226924571.001.0001
Barrett, G. W., & Odum, E. P. (2000). The twenty-first century: the world at carrying capacity. BioScience, 50(4), 363–368. https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0363:TTFCTW]2.3.CO;2
British Broadcasting Corporation. (1998, October 21). Thatcher stirs up single parents. BBC. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/197963.stm
Benson, R., & Neveu, E. (Eds.). (2005). Bourdieu and the journalistic field. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Chimere-Dan, O. (1993). Population policy in South Africa. Studies in Family Planning, 24(1), 31–39. https://doi.org/10.2307/2939212
Christian Democratic Party of Norway. (2017). KrFs stortingsprogram, 2017–2021. [Christian Democratic Party Parliamentary Platform, 2017-2021.] Retrieved from https://www.krf.no/globalassets/vedlegg/politiske-dokumenter/politisk-program/stortingsprogram-krf-2017-2021.pdf
Dean, M. (2013). The signature of power: sovereignty, governmentality and biopolitics. London, UK: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446288313
Dommermuth, L., & Lappegård, T. (2017). Nedgangen i fruktbarheten fra 2010: betydningen av utdanning, økonomisk aktivitet og økonomiske ressurser for førstefødsler og tredjefødsler. [The decline in fertility from 2010: the meaning of education, economic activity, and economic resources for births of first and third children.] Statistics Norway 2017/12. Retrieved from https://www.ssb.no/befolkning/artikler-og-publikasjoner/nedgangen-i-fruktbarheten-fra-2010
Fossheim, K., & Talsnes, S. (2016, February 6). Åpenhjertig Listhaug—derfor bærer jeg korset. [Candid Listhaug: Here’s why I wear a crucifix.] TV2. Retrieved from https://www.tv2.no/a/8013803/
Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality: an introduction (vol. I). Trans. Robert Hurley. New York, NY: Vintage.
Foucault, M. (2003). ‘Society must be defended’: lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76. London, UK: Allen Lane.
Foucault, M. (2007). Security, territory, population: lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–78. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Foucault, M. (2008). The birth of biopolitics: lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Giddens, A. (1990) The consequences of modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Greene, L. (2018). Talk on the wild side: the untameable nature of language. London, UK: Profile Books.
Jensen, I. (2019, January 10). Vil kutte i barnetrygden for at innvandrere skal få færre barn. [Would like to cut child benefits so that immigrants produce fewer children.] TV2. Retrieved from https://www.tv2.no/a/10335046/
Lemke, T., Casper, M. J., & Moore, L. J. (2011). Biopolitics: an advanced introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Marx, K. (1976). Capital: a critique of political economy (vol. 1). London, UK: Penguin Books.
New York Times. (1976, February 15). ‘Welfare queen’ becomes issue in Reagan campaign. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1976/02/15/archives/welfare-queen-becomes-issue-in-reagan-campaign-hitting-a-nerve-now.html.
Norwitz, E., Edusa, V., & Park, J. S. (2005). Maternal physiology and complications of multiple pregnancy. Seminars in Perinatology, 29(5), 338–348. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.semperi.2005.08.002
Norsk Telegrambyrå. (2018, November 19). Barnetrygd utgjør mindre av fattiges inntekt. [Child benefits make up smaller portion of the income of the poor.] Dagbladet.no. Retrieved from https://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/barnetrygd-utgjor-mindre-av-fattiges-inntekt/70511394.
O’Ballance, E. (1995) Civil war in Bosnia, 1992-94. London: Macmillan Press. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-13666-7
Peled-Elhanan, N. (n.d.). The suffering Palestinian women endure every day. Retrieved from http://www.thehypertexts.com/Archive/Nurit%20Peled-Elhanan.htm.
Shammas, V. L. (2018). The dissolution of social democracy: how law and order came to Norway. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 31(1), 85–89. https://doi.org/10.1525/fsr.2018.31.1.85
Solberg, E. (2019, January 1). New year’s address 2019. Retrieved from https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/new-years-address-2019/id2623249/
Statistics Norway. (2018, March 6). Rekordlav fruktbarhet. Retrieved from https://www.ssb.no/befolkning/artikler-og-publikasjoner/rekordlav-fruktbarhet
Tatum, D. (2010). Genocide at the dawn of the 21st century: Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Darfur. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Tybring-Gjedde, C. (2018, November 17). Lite som minner om kristne verdier, KrF. [Little that is reminiscent of Christian values, KrF.] Aftenposten. Retrieved from https://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/debatt/i/G19BxJ/Lite-som-minner-om-kristne-verdier_-KrF--Christian-Tybring-Gjedde-Frp
Walker, S. (2019, February 10). Viktor Orbán: no tax for Hungarian women with four or more children. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/10/viktor-orban-no-tax-for-hungarian-women-with-four-or-more-children
Copyright (c) 2020 Victor Lund Shammas, Tony Sandset
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).