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The rise of Neoliberalism in Denmark: ideas, policies, and paradigm shifts

Week 5 of the Spring Term at 15.00-16.00 in the PG Hub 1 will feature Rune Møller Stahl on “The rise of Neoliberalism in Denmark: ideas, policies, and paradigm shifts”.


This paper traces the ascension of liberal economic ideas in the macroeconomic establishment in Denmark since the 1970s. Based on a systematic analysis of documents from the Danish government and the Economic Council published between 1970 and 2004, this paper demonstrates that Denmark experienced a marked shift in paradigms during this period. Full Employment Keynesianism dominated the 1970s and Neoclassical Liberalism became dominant from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The paper argues that the nature of this paradigm shift is more uneven and gradual than the literature traditionally suggests. Furthermore, the adoption of new strict monetary and fiscal policies takes places already from the early 1980s, before the intellectual tools of the new paradigm were dominant and developed. This suggests that it was not intellectual dominance of liberal ideas that caused the initial adoption of neoliberal policies. It is argued that the central role of economic theory is rather in legitimating and justifying policy, and that the stability of economic strategy, despite changes in government, point towards a situation where Neoclassical liberalism has taken the form of common sense in the policy elite. This may in turn restrain the scope of legitimate public debate and policy action.