The inaugural Howard Clark Memorial Lecture: A Divided Britain - What can we learn from the Nordics?

Howard Clark on television in Venezuela
Howard Clark on television in Venezuela

Our friend Howard Clark was Chair of War Resisters' International when he died in 2013. Leeds Beckett University are hosting the first "Howard Clark Memorial Lecture on Nonviolence", which will be presented by George Lakey, an activist, writer, and friend of Howard's. He will speak on the subject "A divided Britain: what can we learn from the Nordics?"

When 6th October 2017, 17:30

Where The Rose Bowl Lecture Theatre A (RB241), Leeds Beckett University, Portland Cresent, Leeds, LS1 3HB, United Kingdom


George Lakey’s newest book has a provocative answer

In July 2017 Melville House released the paperback of “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can, too,” a book that was made “Book of the Week” in 2016 by London Times Higher Education. The American activist-sociologist George Lakey speaks to the polarization now experienced in both Britain and his own country and predicts that it will become more extreme as inequality heightens. What he has learned from studying the Nordic countries is that polarization may offer as much opportunity as anxiety.

Sweden and Norway in the 1920s and ‘30s reached the most polarized condition they have experienced in their modern history. Nazis marched with openly anti-Semitic slogans while at the same time Communists were organizing for the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was in this stormy period that democratic socialist popular movements grew rapidly and, through nonviolent direct action, broke the dominance of the economic elite in those countries.

Lakey has analyzed the ingredients of the movements' successes, and finds that some elements could be duplicated in the U.S. and Britain. First is the de-legitimization of the prevailing political order, such that a majority came to see it as only a pretend democracy. Second is broad agreement on a rough vision of what could replace the unequal and unjust economic order. Third was to draw on the new economy experiments which, for the Nordics, was the infant cooperative movement. Fourth was the use of nonviolent direct action campaigns to loosen the power of the economic elite.

The result was that a majority in both Sweden and Norway took power and invented, wih input from Denmark, what economists now call the “Nordic economic model.” By the 1960s polarization was only a memory; Sweden and Norway experienced a very high degree of consensus.

By now their model has for over half a century out-performed the Anglo-American model on a series of criteria for economic well-being, including health, the virtual abolition of poverty, and a high degree of equality. The Norwegians even generate, per capita, more start-ups of new companies than the Americans while the Swedes beat the U.S. on innovativeness as measured by patents.

George Lakey recently retired as professor at Swarthmore College and in August keynoted the annual conference of Nordic business school economics professors held at Budø University in northern Norway. In October he will be on book tour in the UK and will be in Leeds on October 6th, as the first Howard Clark Memorial Lecture.