Strangely presented by the states in question themselves. The five Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland) have presented a joint paper arguing that their system of government is both not especially socialistic, at least in a more communitarian sense, and is quite differentiable from the other welfare-state schemes from the continent. Instead, they claim that the Nordic system uses the state to empower, rather than limit, individual autonomy by taking over the host of traditional responsibilities and customs that have supposedly fettered its citizens. The Nordic countries claim that their system has produced a wholly atomized society, which:
liberate the individual citizen from all forms of subordination and dependency within the family and in civil society: the poor from charity, the workers from their employers, wives from their husbands, children from parents – and vice versa when the parents become elderly…legislation has made the Nordic countries into the least family-dependent and most individualized societies on the face of the earth.
I am still uncertain about the accuracy of this hypothesis, not to mention the desirability of this scenerio, but I found it all quite thought-provoking nonetheless. I am sure one of my co-bloggers, who was briefly quite involved in the Danish state-individual relationship for unrealized vocational ends, could shed some more light with specific examples.
Also, the paper, in the course of explicating its stance, cites another article that proposed an awfully familiar-sounding system for political classification:
Finally, “The Nordic Way” cites a paper that compares Sweden to Germany and the United States, when considering the triangle formed by reverence for the Family, the State and the Individual. Americans favour a Family-Individual axis, this suggests, suspecting the state as a threat to liberty. Germans revere an axis connecting the family and the state, with a smaller role for individual autonomy. In the Nordic countries, they argue, the state and the individual form the dominant alliance.