Promotionsprogramm "Transformationsprozesse in Europäischen Gesellschaften"

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Sille Radoor Larsen



University of Copenhagen
Archaeology, Ethnology, Greek & L
Karen Blixensvej 4
2300 Copenhagen S


Further Information

Dissertation Project

A Different Kind of Town. Practices for development and welfare in Danish boroughs approx. 1950-1970 with the borough of Holstebro as an example

Denmark is known as one of the Scandinavian welfare states. The idea of the" welfare state" or "welfare society" permeates everyday life and has since the 1960's been widely accepted as a prerequisite for "the good life". By taking the municipality of the Danish borough as outset, my research investigates how different conceptions of development and welfare were part of the boroughs transformation into modern cities in the Danish welfare state.

The period 1950-1970 constitute "the last decades" where the Danish borough was a municipal entity. In 1970 a Municipal Reform abolished an urban system of boroughs and parishes that had existed since the Middle Ages. In the decades leading up to the municipal reform, government legislation had expanded the municipal responsibilities. This necessitated a professionalization of the municipal management that led to changes in the local power structures.

By using the borough of Holstebro as a case example the project examines how city and state officials, members of the City Council as well as associations of commerce and industry, negotiated and practiced development and welfare over a period of 20 years from approx. 1950-1970. The two main research questions are:

  • What notions of development and welfare existed in the borough of Holstebro in the 1950-1960s and how were they practiced?
  • What constituted "the good life" that were to be lived in the modern city and what separated it from the lives, that were already lived there?


Research into the history of the Danish welfare state tends to concentrate on political history or to focus of its supposed roots in for instance Protestantism, popular movements, the workers movement etc. The research has primarily been concerned with finding ideological and economic explanations as to why the idea of the welfare state became so widely accepted. To some extent, this has meant that the question of "why?" has overshadowed the question of "how?".

By applying a cultural analytical approach, inspired by Michel Foucault's genealogical analysis and concept of governmentality as well as approaches from material culture studies, my research aim to analyze development and welfare as phenomena. I.e. as something that is done in ongoing processes that assembles everything from decision makers, to the bodies and identity of the citizens and the physical changes of the built environment. This enables me to investigate how concepts of development and welfare, found in the historical setting of a single borough, relates to the expansion of the Danish welfare society, but at the same time is something else and more than a matter of governmental politics. It is not just a question of government politics, dictating how society should be. It is also a question of how legislation and concepts of change are practiced in a municipal context and dealt with locally.

Finally, the PhD thesis contributes to the field of Urban History in that it examines processes involving questions of continuity and change in boroughs of the 20th Century. The concept of the modern city tends to shadow for the continuity between the old boroughs and the well planned cities of the welfare state. By mapping strategies and practices in a single borough, my research offers new insight into, how municipal boroughs continued to further their position as main cities in a catchment area.

Supervisor: Ass. Prof. Nils Jul Nielsen