Artikkelen undersøker hvordan Jens Arup Seip (1905–1992) etablerte en ny forståelse av det nittende århundrets norske historie i lys av det tjuende århundrets erfaringer. Ved å dekonstruere en virksom historiografisk «venstretradisjon» med røtter tilbake til Sars, åpnet Seip for å rekonstruere perioden fra det han selv definerte som et genuint moderne erkjennelsesstandpunkt. Seips «modernisering» av 1800-tallet ble imidlertid temperert av hans sterke metodiske krav om å innforlive seg med fortiden. Artikkelen undersøker nærmere vekselspillet mellom Seips fortolkning av 1800-tallets historie, hans formative historiske erfaringer og forståelse av sin egen tid. En sentral konklusjon går ut på at nøkkelen til Seips historiske tenkning må søkes i hans erfaringer med mellomkrigstidens kaotiske «flerpartistat». I hans treleddede konstruksjon av moderne norsk historie utgjorde flerpartistaten «den andre» som både embetsmannsstaten og ettpartistaten trådte frem i relieff mot.
The article investigates Jens Arup Seip’s (1905–1992) reinterpretation of Norway’s political history in the nineteenth century. Emphasizing the radical contingency of history as well as Norway’s lack of natural geographical and cultural unity as a nation, Seip juxtaposed his modernist notion of politics to a strongly Whiggish historiographical tradition. Whereas older historians such as Ernst Sars (1835–1917) and Halvdan Koht (1873–1965) had seen politics essentially as a medium of national self-realization and social integration, Seip saw it as efforts of human actors to impose their will on the course of history – which in and of itself had no logical direction or metaphysical meaning. This distinctively Weberian understanding of politics underpinned Seip’s most important scholarly contribution, his theory of the nineteenth-century Norwegian embetsmannsstat (Beamtenstaat). A very exclusive group of high state officials, which spread thinly across the national territory, governed Norway for seventy years – not as a «ruling class» in the Marxist sense, but rather as the country’s political class in a Weberian sense. With its combination of «piecemeal social engineering» and strict political control from above, this regime appeared in Seip’s portrait in a sense as a predecessor to the postwar, social-democratic welfare state. The author argues, however, that the most important key to Seip’s contribution to Norwegian historiography is to be found in the unstable and precarious inter-war period, when the combination of intellectual disillusionment and an almost desperate search for order led to a series of re-evaluations of nineteenth-century traditions in political and social theory. These experiences during Seip’s formative years as a student and young scholar led him to appreciate the historians’ and the politicians’ vocations as separate, yet in some ways strikingly similar, quests to forge order out of the confusing contingency of human life.
I denna artikel analyseras upptakten till det moderna miljömedvetandets genombrott i Skandinavien åren kring 1970 från ett kunskapshistoriskt perspektiv. Studien tar sin utgångspunkt i det samtida mottagandet av den svenske Norgeambassadören Rolf Edbergs debattbok om mänsklighetens ödesfrågor hösten 1966. Boken gavs ut samtidigt på de tre skandinaviska språken vilket har öppnat upp för en gränsöverskridande analys av receptionen. Studien visar att trots att tematiken var global och Edberg själv var en transnationell aktör så var mottagandet av boken påfallande nationellt. Detta visar sig bland annat genom att religiösa föreställningar var av central betydelse i Norge, men helt frånvarande i Sverige.
This article analyses the run-up to the ecological turn in Scandinavia from the perspective of the history of knowledge. The study takes its departure in the contemporary reception of Rolf Edberg’s debate book on the dire predicaments of man (published in the fall of 1966). Edberg was at the time Sweden’s ambassador to Oslo and his book was published simultaneously in three Scandinavian languages (entitled Spillran av ett moln in Sweden, Et støvgrann som glimter in Norway, and Fligen af en sky in Denmark). This offered the opportunity of an analysis of its reception across national borders, serving to elucidate how knowledge of the global ecological crisis circulated in Scandinavia at the time. The article shows that even though the theme was global, and Edberg himself was a transnational actor, the reception of the book was conspicuously national. The most notable example was the Norwegian reception which deemed religious views to be of the utmost importance, an approach that was completely absent in the Swedish context. In Denmark, the book received little attention, highlighting the importance of a direct connection to the national contexts of the period. The article also shows that Edberg’s book was not, as previous research has suggested, considered somewhat of a breakthrough for ecological awareness. The knowledge that he conveyed was instead, at least in the public debate, considered to be common knowledge.