Law of Jante
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The Law of Jante (Danish: Janteloven (Danish pronunciation: [ˈja̝nd̥əˌlo̞ʋˀən]); Norwegian: Jantelova or Janteloven; Swedish: Jantelagen (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈjantɛˌlɑːɡɛn])) is the idea that there is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities that negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. The Jante Law as a concept was created by the Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, who in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933, English translation published in the USA in 1936) identified the Law of Jante as ten rules. Sandemose's novel portrays the small Danish town Jante (modelled upon his native town Nykøbing Mors as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but typical of all small towns and communities), where nobody is anonymous.
Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success common in Sweden and the rest of the Nordic countries, the term refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers.
There are ten rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: You are not to think you're anyone special or that you're better than us.
The ten rules state:
- You're not to think you are anything special.
- You're not to think you are as good as us.
- You're not to think you are smarter than us.
- You're not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
- You're not to think you know more than us.
- You're not to think you are better than us.
- You're not to think you are good at anything.
- You're not to laugh at us.
- You're not to think anyone cares about you.
- You're not to think you can teach us anything.
These ten principles or commandments are often claimed to form the "Jante's Shield" of the Scandinavian people.
In the book, the Janters who transgress this unwritten 'law' are regarded with suspicion and some hostility, as it goes against the town's communal desire to preserve harmony, social stability and uniformity.
An eleventh rule recognized in the novel as 'the penal code of Jante' is:
- Perhaps you don't think I know a few things about you?
Sandemose wrote about the working class in the town of Jante, a group of people of the same social position. He expressedly stated in later books that the social norms of Jante were universal and not intended to depict any particular town or country. Today, however, it is common in Scandinavia to claim the Law of Jante as something quintessentially Danish or Swedish (or slightly less often, Norwegian).
Later, the meaning of The Law of Jante was extended to refer to those who want to break out of their social groups and reach a higher position in society in general.
In Sweden the 'Law' is often understood as having to do with economic achievement and social hierarchy (close to concepts such as humility and envy), while in Denmark, it may also be used to describe the negative attitude towards people who are culturally or socially standing out from the norm, but not necessarily more successful or higher-ranking.
- Tall poppy syndrome
- Crab-bucket syndrome
- Danish culture
- Norwegian culture
- Swedish culture
- Social model
- A translator note in the second edition of En flygtning krydser sit spor
- article (in Swedish) by Viveka Adleswärd in Svenska Dagbladet 2003-11-02
- Den løbske Jantelov, article in Morsø Folkeblad 6. july 1992 by Steen Andersen http://sandemose.dk/projekt99/bibliotek/artikler/jantebrug.html
- Sandemose, Aksel (1933). En flyktning krysser sitt spor. Oslo: Aschehoug (Repr. 2005). ISBN 82-03-18914-8
- Koldau, Linda Maria (2013): Jante Universitet. (Jante University). Vol. 1: Den skønne facade (The Beautiful Facade); Vol. 2: Uddannelseskatastrofen (Educational Disaster); Vol. 3: Totalitære strukturer (Totalitarian Structures). Hamburg: Tredition. ISBN 978-3-8495-0351-2 (Vol. 1); ISBN 978-3-8495-0350-5 (Vol. 2); ISBN 978-3-8495-0266-9 (Vol. 3). In Danish language.
- Koldau, Linda Maria (2013): Educational Disaster. The Destruction of Our Universities: The Danish Case. (abridged English version of Jante Universitet containing the most important analyses and a chapter on Jante Law mentality in Danish education). Hamburg: Tredition (forthcoming). ISBN 978-3-8495-4936-7. In English language.
- Steffen, Juliane (2011): "Hjem til Jante" (Home to Jante), concise analysis of the mechanisms of Jante Law at Danish universities, published in: Linda Maria Koldau: Jante Universitet. Vol. 2: Uddannelseskatastrofen. Hamburg: Tredition, 2013, pp. 464-466. ISBN 978-3-8495-0350-5 (Vol. 2). In Danish language.
- Web site Jante Universitet (Jante University) http://janteuniversitet.wordpress.com/about/ (in English language).