Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Date of Defense

12-5-2012

Graduate Advisor

J. Martin Rochester, Ph.D.

Committee

David B. Robertson, Ph.D.

G. Eduardo Silva, Ph.D.

Kenneth P. Thomas, Ph.D.

Abstract

Long-lasting cooperation among a group of nations is rare. Scholars of different traditions disagree about the possibilities of sustained cooperation. This dissertation focuses on the cooperation among the five nations in Northern Europe sometimes referred to as the Nordics – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, plus three self-governing territories – the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Åland Islands. They form a distinct region with a common identity and a well developed cooperation. The overarching norm is cooperation based on respect for national sovereignty. It started emerging in the 19th century, but was formalized first after World War II. The end of the Cold War and the membership of three of these countries in the EU were seen as reasons for weakening or even the demise of the Nordic cooperation. “Why do Nordic institutions persist despite changes in the international system?” is the central research question to be explored in this dissertation. This dissertation employs the lens of historical institutionalism. Path dependency provides a convincing explanation for the persistence of Nordic institutions. The logic of consequences and the logic of appropriateness complement each other and help us obtain a richer, more nuanced picture. However, path dependency may simply mean that relevant actors do nothing, which may result in sheer inertia. The concept of learning complements well the rather automatic nature of the path dependency mechanism. In the Nordic case, the new momentum of the cooperation results from revised goals and adjustments in procedures, even though the institutions continue to be strongly influenced by historical legacies. This study also argues that human agency should not be underestimated. In particular, social scientists and policy experts function as an epistemic community and help shape the institutions. Potential threats to this cooperation are also assessed.

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