Jante Law: The laws that really rule in Scandinavia | BBC Ideas


Jante Law right here. Janteloven is a set of rules, that supposedly dictates
how you should behave. You’re not to think
you’re anything special. You mustn’t think
you’re good at anything. Thou shalt not think
you are better than me. You’re not to think
you can teach us anything. Everyone knows what it is, and they know what they should do
if they want to fit in. And they also know what will happen
if they don’t fit in. It’s a way of… And, maybe there is something in that that has created these incredibly
successful societies. I’m pretty sure there
is no Scandinavian utopia but to the extent that there is one, I’m sure that janteloven
is a part of it because what people
often fail to realise is that you can’t have it both ways – complete individuality, where everyone
just ignores the rules, and still have a harmonious,
equal society. It doesn’t work that way –
so you get to choose. I’ve felt it a lot of times, and I think most people do. The cosmopolitan Scandinavians
love to say, “Jante Law, that’s something
for the people out in the provinces,” but it exists in every city as well. And that affects the choice
of cars that people buy, it affects how they dress, it affects how they behave… The British society
has a class distinction where you can do a lot of things
because you’re rich, or because you have a background, whilst janteloven is trying to say,
“No you can’t, because we’re a lot of people here, and we get to decide the rules,
not you alone.” Jante Law started off
as a work of fiction. I think it’s translated
as A Fugitive… …Thank you… A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks. As a satire on small-town Scandinavia
in the 1930s, it was part of a novel
by Aksel Sandemose. This is Aksel, this is my grandmother, and here is one of the mistresses. He is my grandfather, and he was an author. He was drinking a lot, he was not very nice
to his children and wives. And here is Aksel
when he heard the name Jante. He called the town Jante, but it was based on Nykjobing. He thought about the mentality
that he felt there was there and crystallised it in this concept
of janteloven. Anything you do that seems
out of the ordinary, or ambitious, or not conforming, would be punished, by the community
looking down on that. Now, he meant it as a satire, over time, over the decades it’s almost become like… an informal Scandinavian
Ten Commandments. The satire aspect
has almost been forgotten, and people kind of think it is
how they should behave. I want to do my own stuff,
in my own way, and not be labelled as an outcast. “You’re not like any other girls, you’re not like typical Norwegians.” No, we’re not. I think it can become
sort of a prison, because you don’t encourage greatness. How many people would want
to belong to a vision like that? Jante Law is something that
we’re stuck with inside of us. I think it’s always there. That way of thought, may well
simply be so deeply embedded, maybe it won’t go away. The interesting thing I think, is that every society
has those social stigmas. The great thing about janteloven is it forces you to think about what
those unspoken rules might be, that govern your life. And so there’s the first road
to freedom, and getting away from those rules. What you should do, is choose those
that make the better society, and those janteloven that we have, which is, ” you shouldn’t think
you’re better than everyone else,” is probably the best way
of organising a society. If you could click your fingers right
now and Jante Law would all go away, would you do it? No.

35 comments

  1. Ambition is good , wish to go forward is good ,competition is good,but also being cooperative and social is good .The most intelligent people are sometimes individualists and sometimes social-for example one can be very successfull preofessional athlete improving his or her skills day by day ,thinking on his or her personal goals but in some cases that person can help community through some voluntary concrete work (lets say unloading trucks with humanitarian aid)or through some money donation- for example during some natural catastrophes like flood or fire

  2. Sorry but I just have to write this. It seems resoundingly clear to me that the BBC can't compete with Jordan Peterson, so they made this fairy tale version of the story of Scandinavia as some sort of indirect response to him / some form of misinformation for their many misguided viewers.
    To give the story: Jordan Peterson frequently cites Scandinavia as the prime example of how 'forcing' equality on people in a society does not work to create a perfectly neutral and fair society, but it instead amplifies traditional distinctions, IE, with more forced equality at a societal level, the result is that more women go into health care than normal, and more men go into construction, etc. Of course, this doesn't fit the fairy tale narrative of equality the BBC pushes, so they conveniently neglected to mention this (most) important lesson that can be learned from the Scandinavian society, and instead they tainted the entire video in a strange feminist empowerment vibe. Very typical disingenuous behavior from the BBC, not that we have come to expect anything else!

  3. This is exactly the thing we need to avoid. It also seems to be exactly what the BBC, government, police and the bourgeoisie are trying to push on the Uk's people.

  4. The reality is always different than this video, most of the folk here actually grow up to believe in Jante law. Pathetic.

  5. It sounds a bit like it has its origins in Lutheran pietist attitudes towards socialization, and it doesn't sound all that bad.

  6. In quite small doses I’d say it can be good, because it keeps people humble. But it is a terrible thing in large doses, it is unduly regulating people guilty of the grave crime of breaking social codes and not thinking and acting inside of the tiny box that many Scandinavians think and act within. As a result they outwardly all sort of seem like the same person. It’s like they dislike variety 😛 I think it’s quite small-minded, ungenerous, petty, spiteful, and selfish. Yes, you guessed it, I’m from a small Scandinavian town. Ugh. They have a strong sense of their views as being advantageous and correct as long as they are more numerous.
    Although I say this, I believe a certain balance between homogeneity and pluralism is the ideal, and keep in mind how important the variables of homogeneity and small populations are for the success of the Scandinavians. But beware of boastfulness in this regard Scandinavia☝🏻 Remember that goes against your own law 👯‍♂️👯‍♀️

  7. The hypocrisy of the final statement, "You're not to think you're better than anyone is probably the BEST way of organizing a society." That perfectly encapsules the ironic ignorance of Jante.

    If you think this crap is fine, go say it out loud to someone you don't know. Say it out loud to your kid, for Christ's sake. It's obviously messed up. If everyone taught that to your kid they'd develop a personality disorder (as surely Scandinavians do).

    Narcissistic – I mean Scandinavian mentality is based on insecurity – spiteful jealousy, if it weren't evident from these asshole Jante laws.

    As far as the happiness statistics, what they don't tell you is that Denmark, Norway, and Sweden consistently rank #63, 64, and 65 (dead last) in ease to make friends, and variety of things to do. It's one of the lonliest places on earth. Sounds real "happy", right?

  8. I met a woman who felt suffocated by this Law of Jante…as an artistic person ( a dancer) she felt pressured to to not pursue what she loved to do the most. She was traveling as much as she could to find a home elsewhere that, even without all the social support, she might have a chance to dance professionally.

  9. As we are culturally Christian, I believe it has existed for longer than "just" the late 1800's. Jesus lived sort-of by Jantelagen in his belief that no man is more powerful than God. We are all equal to fate, and that is how we should live.

    Oh and while you are at it, studying Scandinavian ways of living, look up "Why I am a democratic socialist" by Olof Palme – the corner stone of Swedish politics.

  10. These social stigmas against ego and self aggrandizing behavior are so good. All societies are oppressive – but this has made Scandinavia equitable and respectful. I'm so into it!

  11. It's a nice ideal as long as it is an internally held principal. The notion that someone would be punished for not adhering is questionable.

  12. The anti-narcissist doctrine. Just look what narcissism is doing to Amerikan government and industry. The generational shift. Kids are attacking old women with walkers. Is it real or is it made up.

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