Book Review: The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen

 

I was born in South Asia and migrated to Canada. Being an immigrant, I was a perfect reader for this book.  In this book, the author argues about the importance of issues like healthcare, daycare, and education in any society.
I was born in South Asia and migrated to Canada. Being an immigrant, I was a perfect reader for this book.  In this book, the author argues about the importance of issues like healthcare, daycare, and education in any society.

The author Anu Partanen is a Finnish journalist who moved to America after getting married and starts finding shortcomings in the American system.  Before she moved to America, she was somewhat disappointed with her own country Finland due to long and cold winters, problems with mental health and alcoholism in the people etc. She and her friend’s perception of America was a stylish and wonderful country as portrayed by Hollywood and American TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Sex and the city.”

As a reader, I felt the connection with the author while she critically evaluates the good, the bad and the ugly of American society as I also have gone through the same “surprises” and “shocks” when I moved to Canada seven years back.

After moving to America, she found that there is no such thing as an American dream. She quotes – “If you have an American dream, move to Finland!” – That is the core theme of this book.

After moving to America she found that there is no such thing as an American dream. She quotes – “If you have an American dream, move to Finland!” – That is the core theme of the entire book.

In America, she finds it very inconvenient and complex to file taxes and even to buy a cell phone or cable TV.  At first, she feels anxiety about the fast-paced, complicated, capitalist American life and argues how things can be better in America. She tries not to attack American system, but to explain the need of improvements in certain areas, social values, and public policies.

Nordic countries follow a socialist model of governance so she starts with stating the Nordic countries as “the Nanny States” where citizens are dependent on the Government (Nanny).  This is in contrast with the American capitalist model where people are dependent on their family or employer because of the lack of Universal Healthcare, free/affordable daycare services etc.

Later she evaluates various aspects of human life in America compared to human life in Finland. She explains how the Nordic way of love, family, education system and universal health care system can be good candidates for adoption for America. She advocates the importance of paid maternity leave, affordable daycare, partially paid disability and paid vacations to boost workforce productivity.

She also explains how Nordic countries give importance to the mental health of its citizens way more than America and take care of future generations by investing in child benefits, affordable day care, and elementary education. She also points out how important paid maternity leave and Universal Healthcare System can benefit in making a healthy society by citing data from 2013.

She makes the book very interesting reading by mentioning stories about her friends and culture of Finland. While explaining the Nordic Theory of Love, she talks how two strong and independent individuals can develop a great relationship wherein one does not need to dominate the other.

She describes American system as a “one strong man” system but also emphasizes on the importance of teamwork and the concept of sharing.

To prove her points, the author quotes few Nordic success stories of Linus Torvalds – the creator of Linux software, Nokia and creation of “Angry Birds” – the game, which are direct results of quality elementary education in Finland.  The author discusses the self-developed theory of “The Nordic Ten Commandments” which explain the Nordic social values in a very simple way.

The later chapters of the book attempt to measure “the pursuit of happiness” from a different viewpoint. She questions, “Can money, success and competitiveness be a genuine measure of happiness?” She does not answer this question but leaves it to be answered by the readers.

In a nutshell, this book critically examines the “American Dream” and its flaws. Also, it points out the ways American society can be better by learning from Nordic countries.

This book virtually introduces the readers to the fundamental “good” concepts of the socialist model compared to ruthless capitalism. Neither I have been to Nordic countries nor I was much aware of the American system, but this book made me understand the implementation as well as the working of both the systems. The book is a genuine attempt to think upon the hard socio – economic reality of extreme capitalist society and the ways to make it better.

This book argues the benefits of developing a “social welfare state” instead of extreme capital sensitive society where you have to be ‘super strong’ and wealthy in order to be successful. It also asks a very important question – is that measurement of success and the pursuit of happiness even a right measurement?

Inquiring minds:

Critics like the NY Times have criticized this book by stating “For Generous Parental Leave and Great Schools, Move to Finland”. I do not agree with this NY Times argument. In order to fix a problem, first, you have to admit that there is a problem and for admission of the problem, you need to give up your ignorance and think with an open mind that accepts fresh ideas.

Enn skal lytte, når en gammel hund gjø.”  –  One should listen when an old dog barks. 

~ Norwegian Proverb

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *