Elites, Language, and the Politics of Identity

The Norwegian Case in Comparative Perspective

By Gregg Bucken-Knapp

Subjects: Political Science
Series: SUNY series in National Identities
Paperback : 9780791456569, 205 pages, March 2003
Hardcover : 9780791456552, 205 pages, March 2003

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Table of contents

List of Tables


1. Language, Politics, and Modern Norway

2. National Identity, Party Identity, and the Role of Nynorsk in the New Norwegian State

3. Language and Social Democracy in Twentieth-Century Norway

4. The Shifting Fate of the Sámi Languages in Modern Norway

5. Norway Compared: The Case of Belgian Language Politics

6. Conclusion




Uses Norway to test the claim that elites are central to the politicization of linguistic conflict.


Why and when do linguistic cleavages within a nation become politicized? Using Norway—where language has played a particularly salient role in the nation's history—as a case study, Gregg Bucken-Knapp explores these questions and challenges the notion that the politicization of language conflict is a response to language problems. He shows that political elites often view language conflict as a political opportunity, placing it on the policy agenda as an effective mobilizing tool to serve their own nonlinguistic political ends. Although language-oriented interest groups may fight to achieve desired language policies, they are generally unsuccessful when their preferences clash with the broader objectives of political elites. This book focuses on understanding just how language policies emerge.

Gregg Bucken-Knapp is Researcher in the Department of Political Science at Göteborg University and the coeditor (with Michael Schack) of Borders Matter: Transboundary Regions in Contemporary Europe.