The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life

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A Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.

Moving to America in 2008, Finnish journalist Anu Partanen quickly went from confident, successful professional to wary, self-doubting mess. She found that navigating the basics of everyday life—from buying a cell phone and filing taxes to education and childcare—was much more complicated and stressful than anything she encountered in her homeland. At first, she attributed her crippling anxiety to the difficulty of adapting to a freewheeling new culture. But as she got to know Americans better, she discovered they shared her deep apprehension. To understand why life is so different in the U.S. and Finland, Partanen began to look closely at both.

In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Partanen compares and contrasts life in the United States with life in the Nordic region, focusing on four key relationships—parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens. She debunks criticism that Nordic countries are socialist “nanny states,” revealing instead that it is we Americans who are far more enmeshed in unhealthy dependencies than we realize. As Partanen explains step by step, the Nordic approach allows citizens to enjoy more individual freedom and independence than we do.

Partanen wants to open Americans’ eyes to how much better things can be—to show her beloved new country what it can learn from her homeland to reinvigorate and fulfill the promise of the American dream—to provide the opportunity to live a healthy, safe, economically secure, upwardly mobile life for everyone. Offering insights, advice, and solutions, The Nordic Theory of Everything makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild our society, rekindle our optimism, and restore true freedom to our relationships and lives.

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About the author

Anu Partanen’s work has appeared in the New York Times and the Atlantic. A journalist in Helsinki for many years, she has also worked at Fortune magazine as a visiting reporter through the Innovation Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University. She lives in New York City.

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Published on
Jun 28, 2016
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Political Science / Commentary & Opinion
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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A concise history of the long struggle between two fundamentally opposing constitutional traditions, from one of the nation’s leading constitutional scholars—a manifesto for renewing our constitutional republic.

The Constitution of the United States begins with the words: “We the People.” But from the earliest days of the American republic, there have been two competing notions of “the People,” which lead to two very different visions of the Constitution.

Those who view “We the People” collectively think popular sovereignty resides in the people as a group, which leads them to favor a “democratic” constitution that allows the “will of the people” to be expressed by majority rule. In contrast, those who think popular sovereignty resides in the people as individuals contend that a “republican” constitution is needed to secure the pre-existing inalienable rights of “We the People,” each and every one, against abuses by the majority.

In Our Republican Constitution, renowned legal scholar Randy E. Barnett tells the fascinating story of how this debate arose shortly after the Revolution, leading to the adoption of a new and innovative “republican” constitution; and how the struggle over slavery led to its completion by a newly formed Republican Party. Yet soon thereafter, progressive academics and activists urged the courts to remake our Republican Constitution into a democratic one by ignoring key passes of its text. Eventually, the courts complied.

Drawing from his deep knowledge of constitutional law and history, as well as his experience litigating on behalf of medical marijuana and against Obamacare, Barnett explains why “We the People” would greatly benefit from the renewal of our Republican Constitution, and how this can be accomplished in the courts and the political arena.

Mary Eberstadt, “one of the most acute and creative social observers of our time,” (Francis Fukuyama) shines a much-needed spotlight on a disturbing trend in American society: discrimination against traditional religious belief and believers, who are being aggressively pushed out of public life by the concerted efforts of militant secularists.

In It’s Dangerous to Believe, Mary Eberstadt documents how people of faith—especially Christians who adhere to traditional religious beliefs—face widespread discrimination in today’s increasingly secular society. Eberstadt details how recent laws, court decisions, and intimidation on campuses and elsewhere threaten believers who fear losing their jobs, their communities, and their basic freedoms solely because of their convictions. They fear that their religious universities and colleges will capitulate to aggressive secularist demands. They fear that they and their families will be ostracized or will have to lose their religion because of mounting social and financial penalties for believing. They fear they won’t be able to maintain charitable operations that help the sick and feed the hungry.

Is this what we want for our country?

Religious freedom is a fundamental right, enshrined in the First Amendment. With It’s Dangerous to Believe Eberstadt calls attention to this growing bigotry and seeks to open the minds of secular liberals whose otherwise good intentions are transforming them into modern inquisitors. Not until these progressives live up to their own standards of tolerance and diversity, she reminds us, can we build the inclusive society America was meant to be.

Terävää yhteiskunnallista analyysia

Millaisessa yhteiskunnassa on hyvä elää? Pohjoismaiden ja Yhdysvaltojen yhteiskuntamallit vertailussa.

Toimittaja Anu Partanen tarkastelee amerikkalaisen ja pohjoismaisen keskiluokan elämää ja nivoo yhteen omia kokemuksiaan, haastatteluja ja huolellista journalistista tutkimustyötä kertoakseen tarinan erilaisten yhteiskunnallisten ratkaisujen vaikutuksista tavallisten ihmisten arkeen ja vapauteen.

Partanen tekee selväksi, että pohjoismainen yhteiskunta tukee tämän päivän maailmassa periamerikkalaisia arvoja, kuten vapautta, itsenäisyyttä ja mahdollisuuksien tasa-arvoa, paremmin kuin amerikkalainen malli. Suomessa ja muissa Pohjoismaissa vanhempainvapaat, päivähoito, terveydenhoito ja koulutus ovat jokaisen kansalaisen ulottuvissa toisin kuin Yhdysvalloissa. Tällaisia palveluja on usein pidetty sekä Suomessa että Yhdysvalloissa merkkinä sosialistisesta holhousvaltiosta, mutta muuttaessaan Yhdysvaltoihin 2008 Partanen oivalsi pian pohjoismaisen mallin päinvastoin turvaavan jokaisen yksilön vapauden ja riippumattomuuden siitä, millaiseen perheeseen tai ympäristöön tämä sattuu syntymään.

Englanninkielisen alkuteoksen The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life on julkaissut Harper Collins, yksi maailman suurimmista kustantamoista. Teos sai heti ilmestyttyään hyvän vastaanoton Yhdysvalloissa.

Anu Partanen on Suomessa syntynyt toimittaja, joka on asunut vuodesta 2008 New Yorkissa. Hän on kirjoittanut New York Times-, The Atlantic- ja Fortune Magazine -lehtiin. Suomessa Partanen on työskennellyt Imagen toimituspäällikkönä, Helsingin Sanomissa sekä Ylioppilaslehdessä.

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