How an irritable Danish author left an enduring mark on the national character

58371_aksel_sandemoseMichael Booth at The Paris Review:

“Jante Law is just as normal as the law of gravity,” newspaper editor and anthropologist Anne Knudsen assured me. “You find it everywhere, especially in peasant societies, and back [in Sandemose’s day] there were peasants peasants peasants all over the place in Denmark. This kind of ideology became the State ideology when democracy was established in the country [in 1849] and it got a second life with Social Democracy, and all of this was transmitted from generation to generation by propaganda and by a unified school system.” She added, “But, you know, the envy part is not the important part. The important part is the inclusiveness: we want to include you, but that is only possible if you are equal. It’s what peasants do.”

I opened a newspaper to see if I could spot signs of Jante Law in action today, and, what do you know, there was a story about the Swedish Tetra Pak packaging heir Hans Rausing’s drug-fueled downfall: the gloating headline reads HIS BILLIONS COULD NOT SAVE HIM. Another concerns the bankruptcy of a flamboyant Danish businessman from a humble background who amassed a collection of snazzy cars and foreign homes and made the mistake of parading them in the media over the years. Again, the article is dripping with Jante revenge, detailing the luxuries he has had to give up: “Three years ago he told this newspaper proudly of his Bugatti, his Lamborghini, and the Porsche he was about to buy,” the article read. “Now he has run dry of cash.”

more here.