Ph.D. Course: Forging sustainable modernity: The Nordic Model and beyond

The objective of this interdisciplinary course is to explore challenges to sustainable modernity in cultural, economic, political and institutional realms.

Application deadline was May 02, 2017.


Photo by Carnegie Wave Energy Limited/Wikimedia commons

Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM) and Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) are pleased to invite applications for the forthcoming doctoral course 'Forging sustainable modernity: The Nordic Model and Beyond'.

It is now widely acknowledged that modernity has emancipated us from dogma, promoted individual freedoms, and unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurship and innovation in science and technology, and productivity and welfare in work and social life. But modernity also has a downside. In recent decades, the banner of ‘modernization’ has often implied the depletion of natural resources, increased social inequality and exclusion, and exacerbating the climate crisis.

Some thinkers suggest that the self-destructive success of modernity has been its competitive mindset and the growing lack of cooperation amongst societies (e.g. Turchin 2007; Sennett 2013; Wilson 2014; Soros 2016). Implicit in this view is a call for a paradigm shift based on a mindset which would foster novel forms of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Against this background, the course will address questions such as:

  • How can individual self-interest and the neglect of the commons be reconciled with the work for the public good and less pressure on the environment?  
  • If competition is the engine of successful innovation - how to square it with fostering a sustainable modernity and the ideal of ‘good life’?

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes

The course is designed to provide students with:

  • A nuanced understanding of the multiple challenges to a sustainable and fair society;
  • The ability to critically examine – and come up with solutions to - ‘wicked problems’ bedeviling late modernity;
  • Insights into what make the Nordic model attractive to the world; what are its strengths and downsides; can it be ‘exported’ outside Scandinavia?
  • Knowledge on the nature of cultural, economic and institutional innovation for a sustainable future.

The course invites PhD students to present their work and enrich their insights via an interdisciplinary feedback from - and interplay with - course lecturers and participants.


  • David Sloan Wilson, Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University, Evolutionary Science, SUNY
  • Atle Midttun, Professor at the Department of Innovation and Economic Organisation, Norwegian Business School (BI)
  • Nina Witoszek, Head of Research, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo
  • Erik Reinert, Professor of Technology Governance and Development Strategies, Tallinn University of Technology
  • Dag Olav Hessen, Professor, Section for Aquatic Biology and Toxicology, the Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo
  • Lennart Olsson, Professor of Geography, Lund University, founding Director of LUCSUS, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies
  • Karen Victoria Lykke Syse,  Associate Professor and Head of Research, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo
  • Håkon Wium Lie, Chief Technology Officer, Opera Software, Creator of CSS
  • Katharine Browne,  Faculty member, Department of Philosophy, Langara College  
  • Kirsti Klette, Professor, Department of Teacher Education and School Research, University of Oslo
  • Lars Trägårdh, Professor, Research Project Director, Ersta Sköndal University College
  • Farhat Taj, Ph.D., Sociology of Law
  • Anders Ekeland, Senior Advisor, Statistics Norway (SSB)


Who may apply?

The interdisciplinary nature of the course is designed to appeal to doctoral students from a broad variety of backgrounds (e.g.  political science, business studies, international relations, history, political economy, cultural studies, literature, linguistics, media, economic history, law, development studies, anthropology, sociology, geography, and innovation, evolutionary science, etc).

Doctoral students will be prioritised, although other applicants may be considered only if space permits.  

Course capacity: 20 students

Language of instruction: English

Syllabus: Approx. 1000 pages of compulsory readings.



Course participants will receive a Course Certificate, recommending either 10 or 3 ECTS credits, but your own institution must approve credits for the course. We therefore recommend that you contact your Ph.D. coordinator about the issue of credits prior to your participation.

For a Certificate recommending 10 credits, a revised paper of 15 – 20 pages (6000 - 8000 words) must be submitted to the course organisers no later than 8 weeks after completion of the course, and the paper must be graded with ‘pass’. (The paper will be evaluated by a course lecturer and assessed within eight weeks after submission).

3 ECTS credits will be recommended for those who participate in full but choose not to submit a revised paper for evaluation (or for those whose revised paper does not pass).


Published Dec. 5, 2016 8:36 PM - Last modified July 4, 2019 1:36 PM