Janteloven

Now we will look at part of the Wikipedia’s article on Janteloven, namely:

“The Jante Law (Danish and Norwegian: Janteloven Swedish: Jantelagen Finnish: Janten laki Faroese: Jantulógin) is a concept created by the Norwegian/Danish author Aksel Sandemose in his novel A refugee crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933), where he portrays the small Danish town Jante, modelled upon his native town Nykøbing Mors as it was in the beginning of the 20th century.”

The Jantelov or Jante Law has ten rules:

  1. You shall not think that you are special.
  2. You shall not think that you are of the same standing as us.
  3. You shall not think that you are smarter than us.
  4. Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
  5. You shall not think that you know more than us.
  6. You shall not think that you are more important than us.
  7. You shall not think that you are good at anything.
  8. You shall not laugh at us.
  9. You shall not think that anyone cares about you.
  10. You shall not think that you can teach us anything.

The Jantelov, thus, works to preserve conformity. Its rules have generated great interest in Scandinavia ever since Sandemose first articulated them — he rang the proverbial bell. Copies of the Jantelov, and discussion of it, are all over the Internet (unlike some other, no less esoteric texts and topics I searched for today).

There is much to say about Janteloven, and much has in fact been said. It has positive aspects: for instance, it interdicts entitlement. It stresses cooperation above competition, and it can be a relief from that persistent, capitalistic pressure to always excel, all the time. It requires respect for all, not only for the most “respectable.” It has been rewritten in a much more encouraging tone, as a recipe for teamwork.

Some say the Jantelov no longer describes Scandinavian society, more open and cosmopolitan now than it was in Sandemose’s day. Lars Pind wrote a thoughtful post [in English] about his struggles with Janteloven, however, in the 21st century. Cognitive therapists have struggled with the effects of Janteloven, and have written a still hortatory, but less depressing version for use in their practices. And only three weeks ago there was a retreat for women recovering from Janteloven’s ravages, led by someone named, I believe, Windhawk.

Then there is a radical anti-Jantelov [with an English version], which I like. It appears to have been written by a gay Norwegian pantheist. Norway, I am told, is even more dourly Protestant than Denmark, and Sandmose based the Jantelov on the Ten Commandments. It just would take a pantheist to sort all of this out.

Axé.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Janteloven

  1. yeah…i guess i can see something in every one of those, actually. and the name is very interesting, as well.

  2. charlie

    No Child Left Behind would do well to procliam far and wide the principles of Janteloven. Thus he/she can claim a (misleading) moral underpinning of ossification. Of course, the designer(s) of Janteloven could always, in theory, claim superiority on the grounds of having thought the thing up in the first place. But they wouldn’t like that. Would they?

  3. I had never heard of this before, but speaking as an immigrant to Lake Woebegone territory, these sound….familiar.

  4. Well, I’m not sure where you’re coming from / what you’re after, Dave, but here you go:
    Wikipedia sayeth:
    The Jante Law has become symbolic of what many see as a permeating cultural code in Sweden, Denmark, and other Nordic countries: it is frowned upon to appear to elevate oneself or claim to be better or smarter than others.
    Is this unique to blond Protestants? Isn’t this what all the sophisticated African American writers are complaining about when they talk about the corrosive effects of violent, misogynistic, bling-bling flinging gangbangers?
    Sandemose was talking about Scandinavia. Sophisticated African American writers, you will have to ask them.
    El Pingüino sayeth:
    it can be a relief from that persistent, capitalistic pressure to always excel
    I think it’s a reaction to outside pressure. Pressure creates a loathing of individuality. Sitting there stewing in a homogenous broth of groupthink is very comforting.
    Well, OK, although those interested in the Jantelov are interested in it as inside pressure, from what I understand.
    there was a retreat for women recovering from Janteloven’s ravages, led by someone named, I believe, Windhawk
    Do you think maybe they read from noted feminists like Camille Paglia? No, I didn’t think so. Feminists don’t seem to like mouthy individualists!
    I, personally, do not necessarily consider Camille Paglia a feminist. Mouthy individuals, many feminists are that themselves. One thing they are unlikely to appreciate is harrassment. That is different.
    It just would take a pantheist to sort all of this out.
    If only we could all realize that we are not undifferentiated, conformist, monotheistic individuals, but really One Great Mass of unique, special robots!
    Again, whatever, if that’s what you think. I am not any kind of theist, so I do not opine.

  5. OK, I will be more direct.

    Is the Jantelov truly unique, or does it merely encapsulate the broader postmodern criticism of Western European culture? Pressure within a group to conform, specifically a levelling pressure that stigmatizes any implication of an individual being more important than the group as a whole, is hardly a trait specific to Scandinavians or Protestants. Perhaps, however, they feel guilty about it, whereas other groups do not.

    The pressure on the individual comes from the other members of the group, and to that extent is internal. However, a group tends to enforce conformity primarily because its cohesion is threatened from outside.

    Of course Paglia cannot be a feminist, because she criticizes other women who call themselves feminist, right? My point is that I would be very surprised if, in response to harassment from non-women, this recovery group does not enforce rules stigmatizing heretical views. Is this a bad thing? Not for their recovery process, I suppose. However, it is not unusual for such groups to privilege white women over black women, biological women over transsexuals, victims of male abuse over victims of female abuse, etc. Hence, to paint the group as a victimized class is quite disingenuous.

    I’m not sure what helpful quality the pantheist view brings to the analysis. Is it the idea that everyone is special because no individual is privileged, since all is One? That view, if we can take it seriously, presents us with an overarching conformity that would stifle every process in nature.

  6. Pingback: Tak skal du have, Erik « Professor Zero

  7. Pingback: Janteloven « In the Dark

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