The Norwegian Exception?

Norway's Liberal Democracy Since 1814

September 2021 9781787385603 280pp
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


How did Norway become a highly successful liberal democracy? Will its prosperity and stability last, or has modern history been an exception? Is the Norwegian experience based on luck, or has a part been played by clever politicians and sound institutions, including a well-functioning rule of law? How does Norway combine social democracy with a market economy, and extensive foreign trade? Since the 1970s, Norway has become an oil-producing giant in Northern Europe–how can that role be reconciled with the realities of climate change, and increasing awareness of that crisis?

This highly engaging book introduces Norwegian political and economic history to a broad audience, offering a deeper understanding of a country always looked upon with great interest, but perhaps not profoundly understood. The Norwegian Exception? takes the reader back through 200 years of state-building to explain Norway’s current position as a top- ranking nation, and to consider its chances of keeping that status in the twenty-first century. In particular, it unpacks how Norwegian politics and governance have shaped the country’s world-famous oil fund and unique relationship with the European Union. Leading historians Mathilde Fasting and Øystein Sørensen skilfully draw back the curtain on the inner workings of the Norwegian ‘utopia’.


‘When I used the phrase “Getting to Denmark” as the aspiration of many societies, I might as well have said “Getting to Norway”—the Norwegian modernisation story is equally remarkable. This book provides great historical insight into how this lucky country came to be, and reveals its future challenges.’ – Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man and Trust: Social Virtues and Creation of Prosperity

‘In this unique, enjoyable book, two experts reveal the secrets of Norwegian success in creating a country both envied and criticised. Essential reading for understanding Norway’s culture, society and politics, and its challenges—past, present and future.’ — John Gilmour, Honorary Fellow in Scandinavian Studies, University of Edinburgh

‘A greatly interesting book, covering in detail the history of Norway and suggesting possible futures for the exceptional Norwegians.’ — Christine Ingebritsen, Professor of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington

‘Focusing on the societal and political history of Norway from its 1814 constitutional birth to the present day, this book provides a long-overdue introduction to non-Norwegian readers, and contributes to discussions of Nordic exceptionalism.’ — Ruth Hemstad, Associate Professor II of History, University of Oslo


Mathilde Fasting, of the think-tank Civita, is an economist, historian of ideas and author of books about Norwegian political and economic history, and on Francis Fukuyama.

Øystein Sørensen, Professor of Modern History at the University of Oslo, has published on liberalism, nationalism, totalitarianism, Norwegian political culture and counterfactual history.

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