Modernization and social stratification in Iceland
Some myths of Icelandic society are examined and empirically tested in this thesis. The myths are variants of two basic themes: firstly, the idea that the Icelandic social structure is funda- mentally unique, and, secondly, the belief that the contemporary society is exceptionally egalitarian in many respects. The uniqueness theme is reflected upon by maintaining an international comparative perspective throughout the presentation, and by examining the characteristics and degree of modernization in Icelandic society. In relation to the equality theme, some important aspects of socio-economic advantages are examined. Opportunities of individuals and class formation are also assessed, and then the analysis moves to the level of organizations and labour market relations, i.e., to unionism, conflict, and inflation. The findings seriously question or discard the themes which are considered. Thus, we show that Iceland has modernized to a very high level, sharing most of the basic social structural features which have been found to produce a "family resemblance" amongst advanced societies. Iceland is also found to have an inequality structure with familiar characteristics. The degree of income inequality seems to be on level with the Scandinavian societies, but when other related advantages are also considered, such as welfare and security aspects, the net outcome is that inequality appears to be greater in Iceland. Upward mobility has been extensive, mainly due to changes in the occupational structure, but the patterns are fairly typical. The structure of the industrial relations system has signifi- cant affinities with comparable Scandinavian systems, but the level of industrial conflict has been extensive in Iceland. Inflation has similarly prevailed at a very high level for a long period. By relating inflation to distributional conflicts and the inequality structure, we offer a novel interpretation of this outstanding characteristic. Lastly, the relatively poor showing in the welfare league arid the intense distributional conflicts are explained by relating them to the distribution of political power in the society. Unlike the Scandinavian societies, Iceland has not been dominated by a large social-democratic party. The conservative Independence Party is the largest political party in the country and it has been the dominant force in governments for most of the post-war period.