European integration is widely depicted as an intrinsic part of, and perhaps even a vanguard for, a broader pattern of transformation of the nation‐state. Great uncertainty surrounds this process. The European Union is an essentially contested project without an agreed‐upon final goal or end state. Many analysts and decision‐makers alike also highlight its experimental character as a testing ground for ideas, principles, procedures, and institutional arrangements.1

From this perspective, ‘Europe’ represents a potentially new arena for the intellectual: an opportunity for truly pan‐European public discussions, with intellectuals occupying a prominent position. Arguably, a European experiment even requires intellectuals; figures who are able to liberate themselves from institutional and cultural bonds, to speak freely and openly to the challenge of building and re‐building Europe in a world where familiar nation‐state‐based categories and arrangements are increasingly challenged. This includes responding to the many critics – many within their own ranks – who argue that the European integration process is simply the offshoot of a global process of marketization, commodification, and political estrangement. Thus, an important question on which this book sheds light is whether intellectuals across Europe are mainly concerned with ‘writing the Union into existence’, or with debunking the European project.

However, as the editors make clear in the introductory chapter, the question of Europe is not simply a matter of being for or against the EU. There is a range (p.278) of stories told that speak to widely different conceptions of the EU and of Europe. What are these stories? Or more to the point, as this chapter deals with Norway: what stories are told by Norwegian intellectuals? What conceptions of the EU and Europe mark the Norwegian intellectual landscape?

To some our endeavour is rather absurd. A claim often made by Norwegian – well, intellectuals – is that there are not, and cannot be, any ‘real’ intellectuals in Norway, due to peculiar ‘Norwegian’ characteristics. The country is small; we all have to wear several hats (very few specialize in being ‘intellectuals’, so to speak); there are close relationships between academics, politicians, and government officials; Norway is imbued with a political consensus culture; there is an anti‐intellectual tenet in Norwegian egalitarian culture, and so forth.

Our assumption is that it is meaningful to speak of intellectuals of different categories also in Norway. In the following, we will examine how a select number of Norwegian academic intellectuals have conceived of Europe, the European integration process, and Norway’s relationship to the rest of Europe. More precisely, we discuss their approach in relation to three conceptions of the EU: the EU as a problem‐solving entity, as a value community, and as a rights‐based union (Eriksen and Fossum 2004).2 According to the first conception, the EU is an international organization set up by and for the member states. Its main purpose is to solve their problems and to propound their interests. Neither a set of shared European values nor a common sense of identity is required, and the member states set and enforce clear limits on the scope of EU‐level political integration. Political identity, but also democracy, remain the preserve of the nation‐state.

The second conception sees the EU as a distinct value community. In this view, the EU is based on and propounds a set of values that are designative of European history and tradition. One European value‐source is a set of revitalized and modernized Christian values. However, this value system also encompasses the notion of a distinct European tradition of Bildung and self‐realization, and a particular European ‘social’ tradition that stresses equality, solidarity, and collectiveness, in opposition to unbridled American individualism. European values, of one kind or another, motivate the drive to entrench a deeper sense of unity, community, and thick European identity wherein people of different nationalities become European compatriots willing to take on new collective obligations and provide for each other’s well‐being. The European value community is generally understood to be embedded in a soon‐to‐emerge European federal state.

The third and final conception sees the EU as a regional actor within a larger global order steeped in cosmopolitan principles. The EU is a rights‐based entity; EU citizens possess fundamental civil and political rights and embrace a thin, (p.279) post‐national, European identity; the EU is regarded neither as a mere instrument for the member states (i.e. the first conception) nor as a European federal state in the making (i.e. the second conception). The third conception instead posits that the EU is a central component – and driver – in the move from a world organized around sovereign nation‐states to a multi‐level cosmopolitan global order.

Why these three conceptions? For one, they focus on legitimacy and link identity, community, and polity in such a manner as to capture some of the basic features of discussions over Europe that occur across Europe. Moreover, they allow us to pay particular attention to nation‐state thinking or nationalism. A key reason for why Norway has not become a member of the EU lies in a strong popular attachment to nationalism: people’s commitment to democracy and community has tended to be closely linked to their belief in and loyalty to the nation‐state.3 The question is to what extent popular nationalism is challenged or affirmed by Norwegian intellectuals.

The first, problem‐solving conception of the EU is the most obvious indicator of nationalism, because it posits that democracy and political identity are inherent in the member nation‐states. The problem‐solving conception does not, however, exhaust the national dimension. The second notion, that of the EU as a value community, is also ultimately embedded in nation‐state thinking, in the sense that EU integration is conceived of in terms of a nation‐building process at the European level. Arguably, the value‐community conception simply replaces member‐state nationalism with European‐level nationalism. Hence, whether Norwegian intellectuals think fundamentally differently with regard to questions of identity, community, and political legitimacy will become apparent in so far as they understand the EU as a post‐national union. It may well be that a greater proportion of Norwegian academic intellectuals support the making of a European value community and federal state than do ordinary Norwegian citizens; if so, our analysis will shed light on this. However, our point here is this: to challenge the prevalent nation‐state thinking requires something more, namely a qualitative leap to the third EU conception outlined above. To what extent is such a shift taking place? To what extent do Norwegian intellectuals enter a qualitatively different conceptual and normative terrain when discussing Europe?

Two referenda have been held on whether Norway should formally join the EU (in 1972 and 1994). On both occasions a small majority said ‘no’. Our analysis will focus on interventions by the academic intellectuals during the 1 (p.280) 994 referendum debate and afterwards.4 Such an engagement will be marked by historical factors: intellectuals’ role and status in society; their affiliation to and identification with the national project; and their engagement with the lines of conflict in Norwegian society, as for instance entrenched in political cleavage patterns. We start by identifying central elements of sovereignty, community, and identity over the last centuries.

La longue durée

Historical unions

In his analysis of state formation and nation‐building across Europe, Stein Rokkan (1975: 573) shows that the three dominant stages of Norwegian state formation and nation‐building unfolded under Danish and Swedish auspices. Norway was part of a union with Denmark (1389–1814), and thereafter entered a monarchical union with Sweden (1815–1905). In both cases, Norway was the junior partner. These two unions had clear bearings on the role of intellectuals in Norwegian society. Notably in the union with Denmark, Norwegian intellectuals had to go abroad, mainly to Copenhagen, for their education and training. One issue this raised was that of ‘whose intellectuals’ they were. Another was that an important impetus in Norway’s cultural and democratic development came from Norwegian intellectuals bringing European ideas home with them, notably from Copenhagen. An important forum was the literary Norske Selskab (established in 1772 and counting over 250 members). It has generally been understood as having stimulated Norwegian patriotic sentiment from the late 1700s, but recent research has shown that the members were more internationally oriented (Bliksrud 1999). This suggests that intellectuals could have quite complex bonds of allegiance: were they Danes or Norwegians, or both?

The great power politics during and after the Napoleonic wars led to the 1814 Treaty of Kiel, which stipulated that the King of Denmark cede Norway to the King of Sweden. Norwegians, inspired by the examples of the American and French revolutions, imagined that they could seize the occasion to forge independence through writing a Norwegian constitution. A union with Sweden came about under the terms that Norway would share a monarchy with Sweden, and that the union’s foreign policy was to be run from Stockholm. (p.281)Nonetheless, Norway got its democratic constitution, and was recognized as a country with full internal sovereignty.

Norway’s monarchical union with Sweden is thus best understood as a century‐long process of Norwegian national identity formation and institution‐building. The union with Sweden was never able to put its stamp on Norway’s internal affairs to the same extent as the union with Denmark. The separation from Sweden in 1905 therefore simply marked the end of a long process of entrenching Norwegian constitutional democracy in symbolic and substantive terms within a national frame.

Norway’s long history as the junior partner in the two unions has figured centrally in current academic debates, among historians in particular, on whether unions have been ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for Norway. Popular opinion is perhaps more set: unions are ‘bad’; national independence is ‘good’ – or at least better than having one’s sovereignty constrained by foreign governments. This relates to another well‐established view that is predominant both in the public arena and among academics and intellectuals, namely that Norwegian nationalism eventually advanced the democratization process. Norway’s separation from Sweden is widely cast as the culmination of a century‐long peaceful struggle for national independence; for many, it carries with it the symbolic portent of nationalism serving the progressive cause by entrenching constitutional democracy in a national Norwegian community.

The Norwegian political system and cleavage structure

Furthermore, Norway’s historical incorporation in unions with its closest neighbours affected the political system, including the cleavage structure and the party system (Rokkan 1970). The National Revolution, much of which unfolded before formal independence in 1905, represented an important territorial–cultural conflict that pitted the first two political parties, Liberals and Conservatives, against each other, with the Liberals representing the independence party and the Conservatives the more union‐friendly. The Liberal Party itself represented an attempt to resolve several sets of cleavages brought on by the National Revolution. One such was territorial, and pitted urban progressives against farmers; this was amplified by a socio‐cultural division which set progressives in urban areas against peripheral adherents of ‘counter‐cultures’ (based on a different, less ‘Danish’ version of the Norwegian language – ‘Nynorsk’ – and on puritan versions of Protestantism, such as ‘haugianismen’). Later came the Industrial Revolution, which brought about the political mobilization of the working class through the Labour movement and the Labour (and Communist)5 party. This mobilization was then channelled into the already existing complex tapestry of (p.282) cleavage lines and party configurations. The latter served to modify the class‐based political thrust and the left–right alignment of the political landscape generally associated with the Industrial Revolution.

Moreover, the ensuing complex multi‐dimensional pattern of cultural, territorial, and socio‐economic conflict was such as to have been managed rather than truly resolved over time. Of central importance in this connection is of course the development of a ‘social‐democratic’ welfare state (Esping‐Andersen 1990), based on a set of compromises, a capital–labour compromise, a centre–periphery compromise, and so on, and contributing to making Norway into a typical consensus‐democracy (Lijphart 1999). This structure again has bearings on the manner in which controversial issues are handled. Consensus‐oriented systems, notably those with deep‐seated conflicts, have a strong propensity to bracket off conflicts, either through addressing them in closed fora or by seeking out means of issue avoidance. As we will illustrate shortly, Norway’s relationship to the EU is a highly illustrative example.

Norway and the issue of EU membership

Norwegian EU membership has been a highly contentious issue that has divided both the population and the Norwegian political establishment. Three governments have fallen on the EU membership issue, in 1971, 1972, and 1990 (Bjørklund 2005: 73). The two referenda rejections produced very narrow ‘no’ majorities.6 Divisions over EU membership are evident in all three major channels into the political system: the political party channel, the organizational channel, and the media channel.

According to Henry Valen (1999: 106), one of the reasons for the intensity of conflict is that the EU membership issue has tended to activate the cleavage lines identified by Rokkan. In this perspective, it is interesting to observe that the last referendum was, notes Tor Bjørklund (2005: 183), a ‘carbon copy’ of its predecessor in terms both of the general outcome and of the results in the various constituencies. Both the 1972 and the 1994 results showed a strong split between centre and periphery: while economic and political elites were in favour of EU membership, peripheral areas and counter‐cultures furnished no‐voters during both referendum campaigns (Bjørklund 2005).

Nevertheless, the EU membership issue was not simply a case of reactivation of old cleavages. A central issue was also the role and status of the welfare state in an EU context. This issue weighed more heavily in the eventual rejection of membership, and is linked to the clear gender dimension to the membership debate and decision (Bjørklund 2005): men were clearly more favourable to EU (p.283) membership than were women, who often conceived of the EU as a threat to the Scandinavian ‘woman‐friendly’ welfare model (Hernes 1987). Another significant variable was position on the left/right‐continuum. The social democrats were deeply divided (with roughly 60 per cent in favour and 40 per cent against) on the EU membership issue in 1994. However, the largest national workers’ union said ‘no’, together with leftist civil society organizations, movements, and pressure groups and a huge majority of socialist and communist party voters.7 Conservative party voters were overwhelmingly ‘pro’, as were leading business organizations and lobby groups.

Norway’s present relation to the EU: close incorporation without formal membership

Nonetheless, Norway – albeit having turned down a negotiated membership agreement twice (1972 and 1994) – has since 1992, when it entered into the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement with the EU (and thus starting before the second membership negotiation round), become tightly integrated in the EU.8 Given that Norway is also an associated member of the Schengen Agreement, is involved in battlegroups, and other arrangements, it is in some respects more integrated in the EU than, for instance, the UK. Clive Archer (2005: 188) has noted that ‘[s]ince 1994, Norway’s relationship with the process of European integration, as led by the EU, has been as close as possible without full membership’. The present ambiguous situation of non‐membership matched with tight incorporation is somewhat ironic, given that the main reason for rejecting EU membership was to protect Norwegian sovereignty and democracy (Bjørklund 2005: 189; Oskarson and Ringdal 1998: 153–66).

Only gold members can continue reading. Log In or Register to continue