The new, comparatively democratic political regime established in Norway in 1814 was founded on liberalism and the separation of powers. This called for a reformation of the administrative habits and mentalities of absolutism, in essence of the entire political culture. In this introduction the concept of political culture is discussed, and the idea of its darker flip side is introduced and defined. A key point is that whereas the political culture is acknowledged by the historical agents themselves, the flip side is shamefacedly hidden away or more or less unconsciously reproduced. The redefinition of the borders between the public and the private spheres is central to the societal transformations that we put into focus in this special issue. These aspects of the political culture that were unacknowledged or tainted with shame related to both the private and the public spheres, but above all to the gray area in between the two, like in the cases of the MeToo-campaign beginning in 2017. What follows is a few examples from the different articles: Social scorn as a remnant from the society of orders. Excessive demands for correct and principled discussion in the public sphere, which considerably narrowed effective freedom of speech. Satirists mocking the powerless in public for their lack of linguistic finesse. Popular meetings fostering public untruthfulness. Policies for temperance aimed at the poor and sparing the drinking habits of the “better” class of society. Doctors fighting scientific progress for ideological reasons, or to preserve their own prestige and power.
This article argues that Conrad Nicolai Schwach’s (1793–1860) recollections or autobiography disclose parts of the Norwegian political culture that in most cases one will rarely find in the source material from the period. By writing a text largely unfiltered, we get an insight behind the scenes in the culture of the civil servants that were the dominant class in Norway in the period after 1814. The article argues that Schwach largely exemplifies the importance of tradition and the continuity of the pre-1814 culture under the Danish-Norwegian monarchy, but also that he embodied ideals that gained momentum in the political culture after 1814, such as the importance of skills and knowledge in people trusted with power.
Peder Soelvold, the editor of the radical journal Statsborgeren (The Citizen), became widely unpopular during his four years as the head of the most controversial political paper of the time. Fighting to establish a stronger political presence of farmers in both parliament and the public sphere, Statsborgeren attacked the embetsmenn ruling elites (civil servants and clergy), questioning their ability, or will, to rule justly and fairly. However, it was not merely the attacks on their power base that infuriated the embetsmenn. They considered the critique dangerous because it, by way of its form and uncompromising tone, threatened the likelihood of reaching a consensus, which in turn obstructed the general will from manifesting itself. Thus, Statsborgeren challenged the basis of the elite’s communicative model. In practice, this line of thought worked as an effective tool for excluding radical and even progressive ideas from the public sphere while at the same time consolidating the political dominance of the embetsmenn.
The article argues that the satirical magazines Kometen (1842) and Krydseren (1849–1854) helped extend the range of the freedom of speech and served a democratic purpose in the balance of powers. They did this by mitigating the fear of authority and by ridiculing those who made false claims to political or social superiority, especially within the elite of the capital Kristiania. Kometen and Krydseren also paved the way for allowing manifestly opposing interests to clash in the public sphere. They thus contributed to bursting the straitjacket of consensus, an ideal which had been held up as the ultimate goal of public discussion by the governing elite. This was an important step in the process of the formation of political parties. The flip side of the satirical activity was less conducive to democracy. Contempt for lack of linguistic ability and intellectual finesse led the magazines to attack the provincial press with as much urban arrogance as the one they fustigated in their Kristiania opponents. Even worse, after the democratic Thrane-movement had been crushed, Krydseren relished ridiculing the linguistic clumsiness of the worker’s newspaper. Later on, Krydseren claimed in earnest that insufficient linguistic mastery was the real reason the Thrane-movement had been crushed by the authorities.
From ca. 1870 to ca. 1900 mass meetings constituted a primary political arena in Norway, a place where political careers could be made and destroyed. National politics was exceedingly polarized during this period. In the years up to 1884, a heterogeneous opposition challenged the sitting government, demanding that parliament should be given much more influence on both cabinet composition and day-to-day policy. The struggle was finally won by the opposition in 1884, and resulted in the formation of a Liberal party (the former opposition) and a Conservative party. The next twenty years saw new bitter fights concerning mainly Norway's position in its union with Sweden and the principle of parliamentarianism. The mass meetings served to mobilize ordinary voters in an age without a truly national press, but were characterized by heckling, insults, manipulation and the use of outright lies to such a degree that they can hardly have served as tools to help undecided people form an opinion. It is argued that their main function was very different, to prod participants into joining one of the two blocs by largely emotional appeals, where “truth” and reasoned argument mattered far less than the sense of belonging.
Heimen er det sentrale vitenskapelige tidsskriftet for lokal og regional historie. Tidsskriftet har vært organ for Landslaget for lokalhistorie siden stiftelsen i 1922.
Heimen har som mål å publisere studier over lokale samfunn eller fenomener som kan kaste lys over større enheter eller spørsmål. Redaksjonen har som ambisjon å løfte fram nye temaer som er i forskningsfronten innenfor feltet og legger vekt på det nyskapende både med hensyn til teorier og metode. Gjennom artikler, debattinnlegg og bokmeldinger avspeiler tidsskriftet hele landet, men redaksjonen holder også åpent for relevante internasjonale bidrag. Lokal- og kulturhistorisk interesserte med ulik bakgrunn og fra ulike fag er velkommen som bidragsytere.
Finn-Einar Eliassen, Tønsberg
Lars Gaute Jøssang, Bergen
Knut Sprauten, Oslo
Liv Helene Willumsen, Tromsø
Line Grønstad, Bergen
Steinar Aas, Bodø
Sats: Laboremus Sandefjord AS
ISSN Online: 1894-3195
Heimen utgis av Landslaget for lokalhistorie i samarbeid med Universitetsforlaget. Tidsskriftet mottar støtte fra Nasjonalt tidsskriftkonsortium for humaniora og samfunnsvitenskap.
Forsidebilde: Fra et møte i den gamle Stortingssalen i Christiania Katedralskole, malt av Matthias Stoltenberg på 1830-tallet. Foto: Nasjonalmuseet/Stortinget. NG.M.04303.
© Universitetsforlaget 2018 / Scandinavian University Press