The social welfare state


Paradise found?

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In the years following World War II, Denmark became a welfare society. It is tempting to think of the developments as a clearly defined project, but that fails to take into account the coincidental interplay between the political visions and the actual changes. No-one in 1945 could have predicted the shape of Denmark today. The size of the public sector, people's material wealth, the spread of the suburbs, the changed familial structures and the new gender roles all lie beyond what was conceivable in 1945.

Denmark wasn't starting from scratch in 1945. Compared with other countries, it was relatively well off, its people were offered a highly developed social security net and families were protected by progressive laws. Not least, its democratic traditions were firmly entrenched. The Danish model had survived first the economic crisis of the 1930s and then the German Occupation. But 1945 was the threshold to a new era. Thoughts and ideas that had simmered in the interwar period were now to become a reality. A modern Denmark was to be built.

The perfect society
The most ambitious reformers came to be known as "social engineers". They firmly believed that planning, science and rationalism could create a society that was perfect in every detail. Economists, architects, doctors and other like-minded contemporaries weren't just filled with ideas and plans, they were also eager to see them put into practice. They wanted to improve housing, families, the economy…

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