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Reference: Stefán Ólafsson, (1984). Modernization and social stratification in Iceland. Dphil. University of Oxford.Citable link to this page:


Modernization and social stratification in Iceland

Abstract: Some myths of Icelandic society are examined and empiricallytested in this thesis. The myths are variants of two basic themes:firstly, the idea that the Icelandic social structure is funda-mentally unique, and, secondly, the belief that the contemporarysociety is exceptionally egalitarian in many respects. Theuniqueness theme is reflected upon by maintaining an internationalcomparative perspective throughout the presentation, and byexamining the characteristics and degree of modernization inIcelandic society. In relation to the equality theme, someimportant aspects of socio-economic advantages are examined.Opportunities of individuals and class formation are also assessed,and then the analysis moves to the level of organizations andlabour market relations, i.e., to unionism, conflict, and inflation.The findings seriously question or discard the themes whichare considered. Thus, we show that Iceland has modernized to avery high level, sharing most of the basic social structuralfeatures which have been found to produce a family resemblanceamongst advanced societies. Iceland is also found to have aninequality structure with familiar characteristics. The degree ofincome inequality seems to be on level with the Scandinaviansocieties, but when other related advantages are also considered,such as welfare and security aspects, the net outcome is thatinequality appears to be greater in Iceland. Upward mobility hasbeen extensive, mainly due to changes in the occupational structure,but the patterns are fairly typical.The structure of the industrial relations system has signifi-cant affinities with comparable Scandinavian systems, but thelevel of industrial conflict has been extensive in Iceland.Inflation has similarly prevailed at a very high level for a longperiod. By relating inflation to distributional conflicts andthe inequality structure, we offer a novel interpretation of thisoutstanding characteristic.Lastly, the relatively poor showing in the welfare league aridthe intense distributional conflicts are explained by relating themto the distribution of political power in the society. Unlike theScandinavian societies, Iceland has not been dominated by a largesocial-democratic party. The conservative Independence Party is thelargest political party in the country and it has been the dominantforce in governments for most of the post-war period.

Type of Award:Dphil Level of Award:Doctoral Awarding Institution: University of Oxford Notes:The digital copy of this thesis has been made available thanks to the generosity of Dr Leonard Polonsky

Bibliographic Details

Issue Date: 1984Identifiers

Urn: uuid:f9be8ad9-61d6-48b3-ab4b-f76889e93af9

Source identifier: 602337011 Item Description

Type: Thesis;

Language: eng Subjects: Iceland Social structure Social conditions Tiny URL: td:602337011


Author: Stefán Ólafsson - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultyFaculty of Social Studies oxfordCollegeNuffield College - - - - Biblio



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