WEST: Sustainable societies in the 21st century: From welfare states to eco-social states, project 2: The ecological dilemma of the Norwegian welfare state

We would be pleased to supervise students who are interested in this key contemporary policy dilemma and would like to analyse the preconditions for achieving a successful reconciliation or balancing of social and ecological objectives. 


On the one hand, Norway is known for its generous and inclusive welfare policies. On the other hand, as an affluent society with high levels of material consumption and with state finances supported by huge past and present revenues from oil and gas production, the country faces a strong moral obligation to do its fair share to combat global warming.

The implementation of costly measures to reduce domestic climate gas emissions and initiatives to phase-out highly profitable oil and gas-related industries would appear to threaten the financial sustainability of popular welfare policies and the material wellbeing of the population in general and, potentially, the economically weaker segments in particular. Hence, concerns for social welfare in the contemporary national context are potentially at odds with globally oriented ethical arguments and global and intergenerational ecological concerns.

Project description

WEST approaches the ecological dilemma of the Norwegian welfare state in three thematically distinct work packages that students may contribute to with their dissertations.   

  • Work Package (WP) 1 asks why an eco-social transition is justified or even a moral obligation in the Norwegian case. We will study the normative arguments around Norway’s obligation towards present and future generations domestically and abroad given its position as an affluent nation whose wealth is in part built on fossil fuel production. We discuss how – from a transnational as well as domestic perspective – the concern for future citizens’ welfare might come at the expense of opportunities for people living today, leading to tensions between current and future generations.
  • WP 2 asks what is the scope for policy change in an eco-social direction? Based on the assumption that popular attitudes matter for the possibilities of political action and that this is a crucial factor in shaping the direction of climate and social policy, we use data from Norwegian Monitor to examine the developments of public acceptance of different policy measures in the ecological and social spheres over time as well as investigate patterns of interactions and co-variation of preferences towards policies in the two spheres among individuals with different socioeconomic and political backgrounds.
  • WP3 asks how the European Union’s European Green Deal strategy and especially the idea of a ‘just transition’ (European Commission, 2019) is relevant for and could affect Norwegian social and labour market policy and the design of the Norwegian welfare state?

Methods and data:

Under both perspectives 1 and 2 described above, students will develop their dissertation topics and research designs in collaboration with the supervisor(s). Dissertations may be based on both qualitative and quantitative methods and data, depending on the chosen thematic focus. Examples of potential qualitative data include official government documents, political party programmes, stakeholder position papers, expert interviews.

Quantitative data could, for instance, be aggregate comparative statistical indicators from Eurostat, OECD, the UN and/or other international and/or national sources, cross-nationally comparative or national individual opinion survey data (including the European Social Survey, Eurobarometer, the International Social Survey Programme).

Potential supervisors (subject to availability and dissertation topic)

Mi Ah Schoyen, NOVA

Marianne Takle, NOVA

Axel West Pedersen, NOVA/SAM

Therese Dokken, NOVA

We also collaborate with researchers from CICERO in Oslo, the University of Tübingen, Germany and the University of Southampton, UK.

Contact person: We encourage potentially interested students to contact Mi Ah Schoyen (miah.schoyen@oslomet.no) as soon as possible and to submit a short outline (1-2 pages) of preliminary ideas along with a brief CV by March 15 2022.

Presentation as PDF:

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