Introduction

The Concern for Sociality—Practicing Equality and Hierarchy in Denmark

in Social Analysis

Equality is one of the concepts that people often associate with Scandinavia. Within anthropology, the works of Marianne Gullestad (1946–2008)—particularly, her monograph Kitchen-Table Society (1984) and the anthology The Art of Social Relations (1992a)—are among the few attempts to contribute to the theoretical debate on egalitarianism and sociality. With her concept of ‘egalitarian individualism’, Gullestad inscribes Scandinavia within broader comparative studies of ideological systems revolving around two dichotomies: hierarchyequality and holism-individualism (Béteille 1986; Dumont 1970, 1986; Kapferer 1988; Robbins 1994). Gullestad (1992b: 183) developed a theory of a specific “Norwegian, Scandinavian or Northern European variety” of modernity and of the general modern themes of individualism and equality. Exploring egalitarian individualism from different angles, she argued that equality is cast as ‘sameness’ in Scandinavia (Gullestad 1992d: 174 ff.), meaning that people develop an interactional style that emphasizes similarity and under-communicates difference in order to feel equal and to establish a sense of community. In Gullestad’s (1992b: 197) view, ‘equality as sameness’ is a central cultural idea that balances and resolves the tensions in the Norwegian ideological system between the individual and society, independence and community, equality and hierarchy.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.