Liberals worldwide invoke Scandinavia as a promised land of equality, while most conservatives fear it as a hotbed of liberty-threatening socialism. But the left and right can usually agree on one thing: that the Nordic system is impossible to replicate elsewhere. The US and UK are too big, or too individualistic, or too . . . something.
In Viking Economics—now with a new afterword by the author—George Lakey dispels these myths. He explores the inner workings of the Nordic economies that boast the world’s happiest, most productive workers, and explains how we can enact some of the changes—including universal healthcare, affordable childcare, and a month of paid vacation for all—that the Scandinavians fought for surprisingly recently. We, too, can refuse to be governed by the elites and embrace equality in our economic policy—here’s how.
About the Author
George Lakey has been active in direct action campaigns for six decades. Recently retired from Swarthmore College, where he was the Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change, Lakey was first arrested at a civil rights demonstration in March 1963, and his most recent arrest was on March 29, 2018, as a participant in the Power Local Green Jobs Campaign. His latest book is How We Win: A Guide to Non-Violent Direct Action Campaigning. He lives in Philadelphia.
"George Lakey has for decades reminded us what a powerful tool nonviolence is, and in this book focused on Scandinavia shows us how nonviolent tactics and brilliant organizing won enduring changes in four countries' governance and economy and, more than that, the values and beliefs about what is just, fair, good, and possible. This book is an adventure and a field manual for our moment.” —Rebecca Solnit, Activist and historian, Harper’s contributor, author of Hope in the Dark
“Here, Lakey combines historical analysis, economic data and interview-based opinion to produce something that delivers much more than each of those could do in isolation. As a result, Viking Economics tells a story of economic change and the foundations on which it was built at a time when it is so obvious that such narratives are desperately needed in modern political discourse.”—Richard Murphy, Times Higher Education magazine
“Viking Economics shows us there's no reason we couldn't be making far more progress across a wide range of problems. George Lakey is great at explaining why.” —Bill McKibben, environmentalist and author, Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of 350.org “Carrying student debt? Working longer hours with no vacation? Do you wonder if it is possible for the U.S. to reverse a generation of extreme inequality? It doesn’t have to be this way. Viking Economics helps us envision a different way of organizing our economy to put people and planet first. ” —Chuck Collins, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, author of Wealthy, Come Home
“The Nordic model has proven extraordinarily successful in ensuring a decent standard of living for all the citizens of these countries, while at the same time keeping them open to international trade and at the forefront of technology. This short book is a great starting point for those looking for insights into the origins and structure of this model.” —Dean Baker is Co-Director of Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of Getting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working People
“Brilliant, fun to read, and most timely--just what Americans need right now! Lakey busts key myths that keep us believing we can’t have the society we want. Bravo for this great source of evidence-grounded hope!”—Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity andCourage for the World We Want
Praise for George Lakey and How We Win
“George Lakey’s Manual for Direct Action was literally a lifesaver for many during the height of the struggle for Black freedom and dignity in the 1960s. How We Win has arrived to us at another key moment in our human journey. It is a guide for our collective liberation, informed by decades of Professor Lakey’s ongoing research and teaching since the ’60s. Following these steps will indeed help us achieve a more just and humane society.” —Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
“George Lakey has been near the center of American resistance for decades, and so he has both remarkable stories and remarkable insights—not to mention some remarkable colleagues who add their perspective to this necessary manual!” —Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org
“This book is a chance to sit around the supper table with a living legend of US social movements, a mentor who speaks from experience yet honors the young. His lessons and stories leave us all stronger, wiser, and more hopeful about our capacity for making a better world.” —Nathan Schneider, author of Everything for Everyone
“George is a true elder; one that shows up to support the diverse, youth-led nonviolent direct action campaigns of today.” —Sarah Nahar, scholar-activist, interspiritual theologian, direct action trainer
“Everyone who envisions a better world needs to read this book.” —Margaret Flowers, MD, National Coordinator, Health Over Profit for Everyone (HOPE)
“This is, hands down, the single best book on building people-power campaigns for change. ” — Ken Butigan, Pace e Beneand Campaign Nonviolence
“We're lucky to have mentors like George Lakey, and lucky for the many lessons and insights he shares in this book. Read it! Better yet, use it.” —Yotam Marom, former leader in Occupy Wall Street, co-founder, IfNotNow and Wildfire Project
"Movement-building is a craft. But since you can't get a degree as a Movement Builder, we have to make do with trial and error while learning the lessons from those who have walked this road before. That's where George Lakey comes in." —Yonah Lieberman, founding member of IfNotNow.
“If you feel lost and unsure about what to do to help make positive change in our troubled times, reading this book may well provide you with a new sense of hope and purpose.” —Mark and Paul Engler, authors of This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the 21st Century
“Inspirational, practical, readable, with the distilled wisdom of generations.” —Kate Evans, author of Red Rosa and Threads from the Refugee Crisis
“A timely book that balances ageless organizing strategies while addressing many of today's specific challenges.” —Kazu Haga, founder, East Point Peace Academy
“How We Win is both practical and visionary. It offers useful stories, tools, and tips for on-the-ground organizers while advancing how campaigns can build transformative movements.” —Zein Nakhoda, Director, Training for Change, and filmmaker, Grounded While Walls Fall
“A powerful guide in these perilous times from a master of social change!” —Judy Wicks, activist, entrepreneur, and author of Good Morning, Beautiful Business
“How We Win doesn’t just challenge us to think big. It gives us the tools we need to win big.” —Milan Rai, Co-editor, Peace News, London
“Every person who wants to bring about fundamental change in our society needs to read this book.” —David Hartsough, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist
“This excellent book will give you insights through personal stories and thoughtful analyses of successful campaigns, and you will learn how ‘to win major changes rather than small reforms,’ how to move on from mere protest to ‘sustained power to force a real shift.’” —Angie Zelter, co-founder of the British nonviolent direct-action network Trident Ploughshares
“George Lakey, a respected peace worker of experience and long standing, has given us a book that deserves a place on the bookshelves of any peace-minded activist.” —Bruce Kent, Vice-president of the UK Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
“An interesting and useful contribution to the growing literature with ideas to inform and inspire present and future activists.” —Rebecca Johnson, founding President of 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
“Lakey gels strategy lessons for successful nonviolent direct action into a single convenient reading with stories and tips from his lifetime of study and practical experience (ideal for study groups).” —Mary Elizabeth King, Director, James Lawson Institute
“George Lakey distills hard-won insights from a lifetime of social movement work around racial justice, queer organizing, nuclear disarmament, civil rights, peace, environmental justice, in a staggering breadth of contexts around the world.” —Joshua Kahn, Executive Director, The Wildfire Project
“This book could not arrive at a better time for those of us who wish to overcome the political and planetary challenges before us.” —Lissy Romanow, Momentum
“This book is a gift to progressive organizers everywhere!” —Mary Lou Finley, sociologist, co-editor of The Chicago Freedom Movement