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  • Editorial:The Scandinavian Welfare State and Preservation
  • Thordis Arrhenius and Jorge Otero-Pailos

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The Elm Fight, Kungsträdgåxrden, Stockholm, May 12, 1972. Stockholmers gather in support of the protest against the modernization of Stockholm's inner city. Photograph by Mats Lindfors. Copyright Stockholms Stadsmuseum.

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The global financial crisis has caused a profound transformation of every field, and historic preservation is no exception. As nations adjust to the new political and economic realities of highly fluid global private capital, the role of the state in the politics of preservation has been called into question. Particularly, this question confronts the fiscally heavy, extensively bureaucratized modern welfare states of Europe, countries whose state apparatuses have developed significant bureaucracies relating to heritage and in which the care of the past has been seen as a central area of state administration. Significantly, "global" or "world" heritage organizations have always justified their existence on the weakness of state governments. But whereas world heritage organizations' operations were formerly limited to developing countries under the premise of helping them spawn their own heritage bureaucracies, they are now expanding their activities to Western countries with mature heritage bureaucracies. Countless nonprofit organizations have lined up behind UNESCO to proclaim a global heritage crisis on par with the financial one, denouncing the damage that private greed and mismanagement have wreaked on objects of architectural heritage. Public-private partnerships for preservation have now become a commonplace measure to finance the national shortfalls. But the results can lead to outrage, as seen in the summer of 2010 with the international debate of the benefits of the Coca-Cola billboards hanging on the scaffolding of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Such advertising may help to sustain the monument by providing economic support for costly renovations, but it also appears to interfere directly with the object of preservation itself.

The current situation has made the relationship between the state and preservation a question rather than a given. If only for this reason alone, it is important to map the historical evolution of the pairing of state and heritage bureaucracy. This issue of Future Anterior focuses on the development of this relationship within the establishment of the Scandinavian welfare state. As originator of the European notion of the mixed economy welfare state—the model supposedly untenable within the contemporary crisis-ridden, liberalized economic world—Scandinavia might be seen as exemplifying the political quandary facing many countries coming to terms with an altered global order. Without doubt the debate over [End Page iii] the political order will continue, especially as Scandinavian nations have had by far the softest financial crisis of any of the European countries and still enjoy strong continuous growth, high employment, and rising prosperity.

What is at issue here, and what makes these countries intriguing to study in relation to the challenges now facing state involvement in historic preservation, is the clarity with which the Scandinavian case suggests how heritage has been implicated in the development of the modern, mixed political economy. There is arguably no better case study of the welfare state than in Scandinavia, but surprisingly little is known internationally about the region's rich preservation history and its contributions to the intellectual development of the field as a whole. Intriguingly, Scandinavia shows both the role of the progressive state—in guaranteeing actions, discourse, and legislation of heritage—and the role of heritage in guaranteeing state politics of progress. This issue of Future Anterior thus examines how Scandinavian preservationists both shaped and were shaped by the rise of the welfare state. The articles that follow explore the intellectual debates that led to the development of state heritage administrations, focus on key protagonists, and assess their contributions to Western preservation theory and practice.

We devote particular attention to Norway and Sweden because their partition in 1905 complicated the question of "national" heritage that welfare states attempted to forge, causing serious debates over—and even opposition to—the segregation of a previously commonly held patrimony. In "The Cathedral of Nidaros: Building a Historic Monument" Dag Nilsen examines what was perhaps the most politically charged historic building in Norway at the time of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-6026
Print ISSN
1549-9715
Pages
pp. ii-vii
Launched on MUSE
2011-08-26
Open Access
No
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