Icelanders - Sociopolitical Organization

Iceland has been a stratified society without a state and a colony of Denmark, and it is now an independent republic with an elected president as ritual head of state, a multiparty system, a parliament, and a prime minister who is the effective head of state.

Social Organization. Iceland has a strongly egalitarian ideology and the distribution of income is more equal than in most other societies. Differences in economic status, However, have become greater in recent years under conservative economic policies. There are significant differences between male and female remuneration for similar work. There has never been any Icelandic royalty, though some people have been and remain in privileged positions relative to others. These differences are well documented and discussed, and they sometimes become political issues. Almost all workers belong to well-organized unions.

Political Organization. Since its establishment as a republic in 1944, Iceland has never had a majority government. It is governed by a coalition of several parties that range from the Left to the Right in their political rhetoric and policies.

Social Control. The small size of Iceland and its population makes for greater accessibility than in larger, more populous societies. People know each other and know of each other. This closeness operates as a kind of social control and may be characterized as stifling or as close. Icelanders tend to be tolerant and nonfanatical. When someone says "it is not fair," he or she gets an immediate hearing. The response is not "no one said life was fair." Appeal to egalitarian ideals, concepts of justice and fairness, are given weight rather than disregarded. Discussions and debates, like the political parties, tend to be many-sided rather than two-sided.

Conflict. The literary-historic tradition records many instances of conflict in medieval times. Today conflict tends to be verbal and legal rather than physical. Sometimes there are strikes. One definition of chaos is the interruption of normal middle-class patterns of life. There is no military. There is a small police force and coast guard. There is no national guard. When there are strikes, the policemen's union is as likely as any other to be on strike, so they are not used to break strikes. Since most people belong to unions, nonunion workers are not available to break strikes.

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