Forging sustainable modernity: The Nordic Model and Beyond – University of Copenhagen

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Forging sustainable modernity: The Nordic Model and Beyond

Application deadline: 02 May, 2017 (Application form). If space allows, interested applicants may be eligible for admission after the deadline.

The objective of this interdisciplinary course is to explore challenges to sustainable modernity in cultural, economic, political and institutional realms.
It is now widely acknowledged that modernity has emancipated us from dogma, promoted individual freedoms, and unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurship and innovation in science and technology, and productivity and welfare in work and social life. But modernity also has a downside. In recent decades, the banner of ‘modernization’ has often implied the depletion of natural resources, increased social inequality and exclusion, and exacerbating the climate crisis.

Some thinkers suggest that the self-destructive success of modernity has been its competitive mindset and the growing lack of cooperation amongst societies. Implicit in this view is a call for a paradigm shift based on a mindset that would foster novel forms of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Against this background, the course will address questions such as:

  • How can individual self-interest and the neglect of the commons be reconciled with the work for the public good and less pressure on the environment?  
  • If competition is the engine of successful innovation - how to square it with fostering a sustainable modernity and the ideal of ‘good life’?


Students will

  • Get a nuanced understanding of the multiple challenges to a sustainable and fair society;
  • Develop the ability to critically examine – and come up with solutions to - ‘wicked problems’ bedeviling late modernity;
  • Receive insights into what makes the Nordic model attractive to the world; what are its strengths and downsides; can it be ‘exported’ outside Scandinavia?
  • Obtain knowledge on the nature of cultural, economic and institutional innovation for a sustainable future.

The course invites PhD students to present their work and enrich their insights via an interdisciplinary feedback from - and interplay with - course lecturers and participants.


  • David Sloan Wilson, Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University, Evolutionary Science, SUNY
  • Atle Midttun, Professor at the Department of Innovation and Economic Organisation, Norwegian Business School (BI)
  • Nina Witoszek, Head of Research, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo
  • Erik Reinert, Professor of Technology Governance and Development Strategies, Tallinn University of Technology
  • Dag Olav Hessen, Professor, Section for Aquatic Biology and Toxicology, the Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo
  • Lennart Olsson, Professor of Geography, Lund University, founding Director of LUCSUS, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies
  • Karen Victoria Lykke Syse,  Associate Professor and Head of Research, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo
  • Håkon Wium Lie, Chief Technology Officer, Opera Software, Creator of CSS
  • Katharine Browne,  Faculty member, Department of Philosophy, Langara College  
  • Kirsti Klette, Professor, Department of Teacher Education and School Research, University of Oslo
  • Lars Trägårdh, Professor, Research Project Director, Ersta Sköndal University College
  • Farhat Taj, Ph.D., Sociology of Law
  • Anders Ekeland, Senior Advisor, Statistics Norway (SSB)

Who may apply?
The interdisciplinary nature of the course is designed to appeal to doctoral students from a broad variety of backgrounds (e.g.  political science, business studies, international relations, history, political economy, cultural studies, literature, linguistics, media, economic history, law, development studies, anthropology, sociology, geography, and innovation, evolutionary science, etc).

Doctoral students will be prioritized, although other applicants may be considered only if space permits.  

Course capacity: 20 students

Language of instruction: English

Syllabus: Approx. 1000 pages of compulsory readings.

Application procedures and funding:

Please visit our website or consult the attached course document for information about application procedures and funding. Course applications are accepted from November until 02 May 2017. Should you have any practical enquiries, please do not hesitate to email the course secretariat at