Danes - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Class divisions are muted now in a country with a strong egalitarian ethic. Ethnic minorities have changed the character of the nation somewhat in recent decades. Early in the century, Polish migrant workers settled in some areas of the nation, and since World War II foreign workers from as far away as southern Europe and the Middle East have become permanent residents. Contemporary Families tend to isolate themselves from one another. Attitudes surviving from an older communalism and from socialization practices result, however, in acquiescence to democratic forms of governing at every level. They also persist in the widespread activities of voluntary associations, which stem from the mutual-assistance societies and the cooperative movement of the late nineteenth century. The societies were forerunners of social insurance.

Political Organization. Denmark became a constitutional monarchy in 1848. Universal suffrage is practiced. Now ruled by a unicameral legislature, the government is headed by a prime minister. Recently a bourgeois coalition has formed the government. Previously, leadership was most often in the hands of the Social Democrats.

Social Control. The Danes have some continental (Napoleonic) aspects in their legal system—for example, judges who are career civil servants and the use of lay judges. They also include some common-law (English) aspects, such as criminal jury trials. On the whole, they are closer to common law, because they mainly follow an accusatorial rather than an inquisitorial system. The courts are strong and untainted, backed by a humane penal system and police who do not carry guns.

Conflict. Nonviolence is the essence of the Danish polity, reflecting continuities with a history of communalism. At all levels, governmental and nongovernmental, disputes are resolved through the highly developed art of compromise. The Danes pioneered in the global expansion of the Swedish institution of the ombudsman. Appointed by parliament, the ombudsman is empowered to investigate governmental activity but may not compel the implementation of his recommendations other than through reasoned persuasion or publicity.

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