Developments in Governing of Danish Welfare 1955-2006: A Problematization Analysis of the Changes in Governmentality within the Welfare Areas of Education, Unemployment and Retirement in the Period of 1955-2006

Rasmus Rohde

Student thesis: Master thesis


retirement have been governed throughout the years 1955 till 2006. In the 1950s, welfare policies focused on generalising social rights and expanding the Danish welfare state, but in the 2000s, welfare policies focused mainly on creating economic incentives for participation in the labour market. In this master thesis, I charter the historical trajectories in the period in between in order to describe the way in which governmentality in the Danish welfare policies has developed. It is done by analysing the different characteristics of the way individuals were governed and how the individuals were perceived. Inspired by French philosopher Michel Foucault, I conduct a historical analysis of problematisation based on documents ranging from legal policies, policy papers, commission reports to minutes from debates in parliament. The analysis of problematisations in the education policies show how governing went from focusing on using democratic techniques in order to make the pupils happy, while preparing them for democratic participation. By 2006 the focus was instead on governing through continuous testing and conditioning pupils to follow their self-interests. Within unemployment policies, the analysis shows a development from perceiving unemployment as an external problem caused by lack of information, to being perceived as a self-inflicted problem caused by lack of economic incentive. The analysis of retirement policies shows how the governing at the start of the period aimed at creating a universal access to an equal social service, with the introduction of the National Pension. In the end of the period services had become targeted and individuals were seen as consumers. The analyses have shown how the governing rationality went from a collective focus, that sought to govern through a universal approach to social rights, towards an individualised approach, that sought to govern through economic incentive and market-like constellations. The thesis has therefore also shown how individuals were initially conditionalised to be communityoriented individuals with social rights, democratic values and distinctive capabilities for solidarity. In the end individuals were conditionalised to perceive themselves as consumers that are aware of and follow their self-interests and therefore are guided by economic incentives. The analysis shows a reorientation of the governing of welfare towards the labour market. This indicates a change from equality towards the state, wherein the individuals were perceived as formally equal citizens, and shifted to an equality towards the labour market, wherein the individuals were perceived as formally equal market participants.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages82
SupervisorsThomas Presskorn-Thygesen