The Jante Law - encounters of conformity

  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Apr 29, 2008 10:26 AM GMT
    This is more of an incidental curiousity post with a small tidbit of Scandinavian culture. In Norway, it's common to refer to the law described below for any incident that appears (realistically or imagined) to have been influenced by Norwegian conformist norms, criticizing both the incident and the law. Yet, I'd wager that many Norwegians ensure that the law is applied to anyone who acts "disagreeably" or who excels in a field where they themselves do not (either belittling the person or belittling the field).

    The Jante Law is a set of ten rules codified by Aksel Sandemose in A Fugitive Crosses his Tracks that, while limited to the town of Jante in the novel, describe the system of conformity that permeates throughout Scandinavia. The ten rules are:

    1. Thou shalt not believe thou art something.
    2. Thou shalt not believe thou art as good as we.
    3. Thou shalt not believe thou art more wise as we.
    4. Thou shalt not fancy thyself better than we.
    5. Thou shalt not believe thou knowest more than we.
    6. Thou shalt not believe thou are greater than we.
    7. Thou shalt not believe thou amountest to anything.
    8. Thou shalt not laugh at us.
    9. Thou shalt not believe that anyone is concerned with thee.
    10. Thou shalt not believe thou canst teach us anything.

    The Wikipedia article on the law puts in a context of a British term, Tall poppy syndrome.

    How do you experience this form of conformist pressure, if at all? How do you apply this form of conformist pressure on others, if at all?

    And yes, I would put contemporary pressures to be happy and carefree as conformist pressures, however benign their intentions may be.
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    Apr 29, 2008 12:19 PM GMT
    We are the borg? icon_cool.gif

    I have experienced this in school. Where excelling automatically puts you on the teacher's watch list. I've been accused of cheating and plagiarism before much to my disgust because the work I submitted was too good. icon_mad.gif

    It came to the point where I intentionally failed some exams, stopped trying harder to study, became ashamed of my talents, and resented my teachers.

    Schools dumb down students.
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    Apr 29, 2008 1:09 PM GMT
    It can go too far. Here in America, it has turned into the "good ole boy" syndrome, where anyone of any intellectual pretense is seen as out of touch. It has currently culminated in raising the greatest idiot in the land to the greatest office in the land.
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Apr 29, 2008 2:43 PM GMT
    We have some "jantelov" issues in Norwegian schools as well; while excelling is not actively discouraged, there is little incentive toward excelling other than getting a higher grade (which, in my opinion, does not functionally matter until the eleventh grade).

    An example is a school that last year initiated attempts at recognizing students who excel (by giving token roses at the end of the last school year); the move brought about protests from parents (primarily of students who did not receive the roses) who then boycotted the end-of-year celebration. They protested against the "special recognition" of the other students.
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    Apr 29, 2008 2:47 PM GMT
    Some black students in America will sometimes harass other black students who study and excel as ...hmmmm... "acting white," I think they call it.

    The comedian Bill Cosby has made a great effort to counter that peer pressure.

    I have just started reading the book "The Age of American Unreason" by Susan Jacoby...about how America has turned away from knowledge and intellectualism since WWII.
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    Apr 29, 2008 3:10 PM GMT
    wow, i wouldn't have thought such a codified system of mediocrity existed outside the united states. what culturally has caused this in norway?? why is there a commitment to the clone? help me understand...
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Apr 29, 2008 3:46 PM GMT
    The "culture of mediocrity" is far from a strictly USAmerican phenomenon. It is a tool of power for maintaining a status quo, pre-existing power relations and current traditions. I'd go so far as to say that it's a human trait, one that imposes an unchanging playing field.

    It's probably also part of Norwegian-style egalitarianism, such as the delayed introduction of grades within the Norwegian school system (when I attended school, we first received grades in seventh grade); one of the major arguments for this system is that it prevents competition among young students (which is seen as a negative).