It is like in America, having faith in yourself and be proud of yourself are virtuous things, but there is also a flip side to it which is negative. That is bragging, being self centered and selfish. Taking sole credit for success of which you were only a participant.
Janteloven is not something to be celebrated but a rethotical tool to use against fellow Scandinavians when they are acting too negative towards an individual trying to do something great and new.
It's seem like most people who mention the law either seem to describe things prevalent in many parts of the world, don't agree with egalitarianism or dislikes the fore mentioned individualism.
This is why I'm a little skeptical of attempts to invoke it for modern Scandinavia (especially since it's become somewhat of a rhetorical bludgeon used in favor of tax cuts)
I don't deny there is a certain consensus driven culture with a general fear of conflict. But I don't agree that Scandinavia in particular has, as people tend to argue, a dislike for successful people nor necessarily of people being different, as long as there is also substance. Especially with there being so many well liked successful Scandinavians. It seems to me like people most often mean:
A) That the grass is greener somewhere else. Which can be true in many cases, but is usually more down to individual circumstances.
B) That they like more appreciation for their social status. As in more egalitarian societies few things are by themselves impressive.
C) Or that they actually want more collectivism and people to be invested in their success, in contrast to the sometimes cold Scandinavian individualism.
In term more destructive collectivism I think the US/UK (who loves to hate celebrities), central Europe (where everyone have only themselves to blame) and Asia (with a lot of social pressure) is worse.
Really, we haven't done too badly. But it's not a societal model particularly well geared towards the present day influx of large numbers of people with quite different and often more muscular attitudes to everyday interictions.
Telling was how Sweden and Norway fought when Norway declared independece in 1905. It did not last long because the Swedish king did not want to make Norwegians hate Swedes. Not the kind of thing that would ever have concerned and english king or people like Bismarch.
The second war, in 1864, ended with a huge loss of Danish territory to the emerging German superstate. The northern half of this territory was returned to Denmark in 1920, with the southern remaining German. This was the result of a referendum in the wake of World War 1. Everything was orderly and civilized, and the border region to this day remains a model of how to handle such things without undue upheaval - thus exactly confirming my point above.
Wise people will tell you to disregard it as it won't get you anywhere.
Wise listeners will take that advice to heart but also refrain from mentioning their progress too much as that might put sticks in the wheels when moving through society.
The end result is perhaps something resembling humbleness. Which, if it comes from the heart, is a beautiful quality to have and strive for. But when its imposed on you by society gets a slightly more ominous tint.
However, I do think the Law of Jante exists in most small communities where being the same is considered a virtue.
It's up to each of us to prevent this, just like we don't light cigarettes at gas stations or let campfires smolder in dry forests. That's not hard. I feel like Smokey the Bear.
May I suggest ten close readings of https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15374168 (once for each comment currently in this off-topic subthread) as a good example of what we do want: substantive, grounded in experience, civil, teaching something new.
Edit: I want to add something about the mechanism at work here. Not to pick on you, but as an illustration for everyone.
If we look at the path taken by this subthread, what can we say about it? It gets consistently more generic. That is, it starts with something specific (a self-observation of Scandinavian culture), swaps that out for something much more generic (small towns: good or bad?), goes to more generic and inflammatory things (gang violence) and then to informational heat death ("Religions can inspire peace or war").
So we can sum up how to avoid the unwanted this way: Don't go generic. Note that that's not the same thing as "don't go off-topic". Going off topic can be fine if the direction is interesting. The trouble with the generic is that's predictable and seductive, producing not only the uninteresting but a lot of it.
(I might come back and add more here. If there's one point I wish I could effectively communicate to the HN community this thing about not going generic is it, because it makes the difference between interesting and lame discussion.)
The site guidelines say "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize." Had you followed that, I bet you wouldn't have reacted the way you did. It's doable but it takes a conscious effort, one that many users (including me) have had to make.
What do any of those examples have to do with Jante? You think gang violence is because people are trying to stop other people from rising out of poverty, rather than someone trying to rise out of poverty through crime? Please tell me you don't think gang bangers are out there telling kids not to go to school because of Jante. That's hilarious.
1. You're not to think you are anything special.
6. You're not to think you are more important than we are.
> Where does Antifa corner someone with bad speech and beat them up?
4. You're not to imagine yourself better than we are.
> Where does gang violence (epitome of contrived us vs. them) happen?
2. You're not to think you are as good as we are.
8. You're not to laugh at us.
9. You're not to think anyone cares about you.
> You think gang violence is because people are trying to stop other people from rising out of poverty, rather than someone trying to rise out of poverty through crime?
Tomato, tomato. First, gang activity is perceived to be zero-sum; a gang protects its territory. Second, vengence is primarily about hurting the other guy, not helping yourself.
As far as wealth redistribution, which kind are you talking about, the kind where the rich take from the poor, or the kind where the poor take from the rich? This seems like a political troll unrelated to the Law of Jante, but it's safe to say that all voters vote for wealth redistribution, it just depends on which direction you believe it should go.
Sorry, that was vague. I meant the way it is most often used: wealth redistribution towards equality.
> It is frequently heard in politics, usually referring to perceived redistributions from those who have more to those who have less.
What kind of romantic world do you live in where you think crime is motivated more by "vengence" than economics? You've been watching too many gangster movies or something where you think it's all about vendettas and less about fighting over highly profitable criminal enterprises like drugs. Have you heard of the war on drugs? This Jante reading of urban violence is preposterous.
for some reason this reminds me of a time when a few internet eccentrics were trying to suggest that hegel's dialetic was some kind of freemason/illuminati conspiracy theory.
in some ways jante isn't all that different from japanese wa, or really even the attitudes of many rural americans.
It can be, yes.
Religions can inspire peace or war, depending on how strongly their followers need others to agree.
The problem is more about getting investors to novel ideas. It is much easier to get investors to back crazy ideas in the US than in Norway.
Other than that I think Norway has many strengths. It has an efficient government where it is easy and quick to start a company. Unlike the US starting a company is low risk because you got covered with public health care regardless. You got good unemployment benefits you can use for a year while getting your company up and running.
I honestly never felt there was a shirtage of ideas and talent in Norway. The problem is on the business side of things. We are poor at marketing ourselves and think in terms of how to profit from innovations.
But it is in no way impossibe to make it in Norway. Most of our billionaires are self made. In fact we have more billionaires prr capita than the US and more social mobility.
I think the problem with cultivating a tech ecosystem in many first-world cities is the lack of capital channeled through sophisticated investors who can deploy it in tech.
That's one factor behind Silicon Valley's continued gravity for international entrepreneurs -- they keep running into the funding gaps in their homelands. Sadly, the Trump administration seems to be making it harder for international talent and international capital to meet in the US.
I lived in Europe for many years, and saw a lot of capital that just wanted a safe real estate bet.
> Most of our billionaires are self made. In fact we have more billionaires per capita than the US and more social mobility.
Sure. But Norway is a country with enormous oil reserves, like the Gulf Emirates. That's basically luck. The question is: How can you build an economy with less/zero dependence on arbitrary allocations of natural resources, especially given that the price of energy is trending toward zero?
Never mind that the "laws" were formulated as a caricature of small town behavior by a known misanthrope.
They are not and never have been a formal guiding principle for Scandinavian thought.
An anecdote will illustrate what I mean. My mother was at the pharmacy once, and as the lady at the register was explaining to the man in front of her how the discount system works, with stamps etc he listened politely and patiently. She couldn't have guessed that he was the owner of H&M, the 17th richest man in the world.
The older I get and the more I travel the more I appreciate this aspect of life in Scandinavia and I don't think there is any indication that this has hampered growth or entrepreneurship, quite the opposite.
The point is not that you shouldn't do your best, succeed and make a lot of money, it's about how you should behave if you do succeed.
Sure, if you take it literally then I suppose it would stop people from succeeding but the way I see it "Jante" is what explains the relative humility of many successful Scandinavians. In a way it's just a flippant way to describe the (downsides of) the Nordic egalitarianism, as argued eloquently elsewhere. So in that sense there is no real opposition between Sweden being full of successful entrepreneurs while enforcing Jante.
All I was saying is that people who are successful mostly ignore the Jante Law otherwise they wouldn't try to become successful, to begin with.
None of this is an exact science of course.
This is pretty much what I _am_ arguing.
I disagree with that few comply. Like with a lot of cultural norms, the compliance with Jante is often happening subconsciously. When a Swedish founder on stage makes a joke about herself/himself (and thereby becomes instantly likeable), that could be one result of Jante.
I still would disagree though. As a German in Sweden I see a lot of compliance with Jante among people who express aversion against Jante.
One can be humble, not too self-absorbed and not consider oneself the best and most important person on this planet (aka showing basic compliance with Jante), and still be successful. I'd argue that this might even be the way to go for sustainable "growing the pie for everyone" success.
try not to stand out when you're the only person in the room that's not a 6 ft tall pale skinned blonde
Personally, I find the effect of the Law of Jante to in many cases hold back the progress of Sweden, in that the desire to improve is often low to non-existent, okay is preferable.
Anyway Janteloven has nothing to do with physical appearance. It is about how you carry yourself.
1. You're not to think.