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Postscript Future research on gender equality in the Scandinavian countries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2022

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Summary

This postscript does not provide a systematic summary of the book. Nor does it seek to provide a detailed commentary on each of its chapters. Instead, based on the themes which I interpret as emerging from across the various contributions, I attempt to suggest some main directions for future research on gender equality in the Scandinavian countries.

The Scandinavian countries are often seen in the ‘outside’ world (that is, the world from which I come originally) as the most successful social ‘experiment’ so far in the creation and implementation of gender-equality policies. The contributions to this volume make a very significant contribution to the development of a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of this ‘experiment’ by exploring the complexities of these policies across both time and space. They also provide the so-called ‘English-speaking’ world with access to some excellent Scandinavian scholarship that might otherwise go relatively unnoticed in that world. What, then, are the themes that I suggest emerge from this range of studies?

Heterogeneity and homogeneity

The first one is the complex interplay of heterogeneity and homogeneity that characterises the Scandinavian countries around issues of gender equality (as well as many other issues). It is brought into striking relief by the comparative perspectives employed by many of the book's contributors in terms of time and space. In future, we need more such explorations and, based on them, development of interpretative frames to help us understand why and how such patterns of hetero/homogeneity exist. For instance, in this volume Borchorst suggests that the timing of specific policies, the role of specific political discourses and economic/political opportunity structures have all been central to differential developments in gender-equality policies across the Scandinavian region. Other commentators, focused on a different level of analysis (Balkmar, Iovanni and Pringle, 2005; Balkmar and Pringle, 2005; Iovanni and Pringle, 2005), attribute such differential developments to largely cultural and historical factors. These two levels of explanation are not, however, mutually exclusive. In future research attention could usefully be devoted to further exploring multilevel analyses of patterns of hetero/homogeneity.

Research and policy: a two-way relationship

Another recurring theme in this volume is the complexity that exists in the relationship between research and policy related to gender equality, a complexity that the book explores very helpfully. On the whole, most analyses in the book emphasise the way research has impacted upon policy.

Type
Chapter
Information
Gender Equality and Welfare Politics in Scandinavia
The Limits of Political Ambition?
, pp. 223 - 230
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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