Jante Law

Groupthink squashing Individualism...

from A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks
Aksel Sandemose 

Sandemose in his 1933 novel formalized a set of laws that had been a sociological form of behavior in the Scandinavian world for centuries. They are important in the United States, especially in the upper midwest states, because they still heavily operate in that region where many Scandinavian immigrants settled. As these immigrants migrated across the country in the 20th century, they brought these traits with them, permeating local culture, integrating the concepts of collectivism and socialism and enforcing these social behaviors and political beliefs into American society.

They are antithetical to Individualism, Freedom of the Individual, Entrepreneurial Enterprise, Creative Expression and defeat positive thinking ego in the worst possible way. To me they are essentially anti-American because they are based on conformity and discourage originality, open discussion, creative thinking or anything "outside the box." Regardless, they are widely accepted as the norm in many communities, influencing our social, economic and political culture, destroying the potential of creative minds and new ideas.

The chief principle to all of them is: 

Don't think you are anyone special or that you are better than anyone else.

The rules are:

1.   Don't think that you are special.
2.   Don't think you are of the same standing as others.
3.   Don't think you are smarter than others.
4.   Don't fancy yourself as being any better than others.
5.   Don't think that you know more than others.
6.   Don't think that you are more important than others.
7.   Don't think that you are good at anything.
8.   Don't laugh at others.
9.   Don't think that any one of us cares about you.
10. Don't think that you can teach others anything.
11. Don't think there isn't anything that we don't know about you.



  1. I'm sitting here thinking (though the law seems to abhor much of that) about people like Edison and Bell and Gates and Lincoln and Douglass and any number of others who've truly accomplished things worth accomplishing. There may have been a few who did their work free of ego but I highly doubt that their numbers are great. Pure altruism is a rare quality among achievers. Some of them think they're better than other people and some of them- probably the real radicals- don't even care about that. And yet they came up with (and some of them continue to devise) ideas and things that make the world, if not a better place, at least a seemingly better one.

    And yet I'd imagine collectivists use computers and cars and phones and civil rights, among any number of other great things we have here.

    The great things about the U.S. were almost all created and executed and insured by rebels and egoists, and sometimes grossly hypocritical ones at that...according to these laws we have it all wrong. Under the circumstances it's funny we're having trouble keeping people OUT of this awful place, isn't it?

    Just thinking and rambling again. Take care, JR!

  2. Your rambling sure is a lot of fun to read! and makes a lot of sense too...

    In the nineties when I was a corporate road warrior instructor, acting as a "change agent" for a stodgy old company, I did pretty well with groups in western cities. I hit St. Paul and Fargo though and was a confused rebel because those people were having nothing of any kind of change no matter what "corporate" wanted. Who was I to think I was "special" by gawd and tell them to "let loose and think creatively?" I didn't know what had hit me until a guy says "I see you've been blindsided by Jante Law." Then I learned what it was.

    Arizona is known for it's rebellious (obviously) and contrarian "red state" ways. We have a sizable amount of migrants from the upper midwest and they're usually of two types: mostly they're the ones who wanted to get away from all that oppression which explains some of our seeming overreaction to things out here. Then there is that minority, the hard core Jante Law types who are constantly fighting our "system" because they're so much more "enlightened." I feel sorry for them because they're the perpetual "anti" crowd who just can't understand why we won't shut up and listen, behave and realize we're not "special" and do what they say and things will then go "smoothly."

    Which of course is the opposite of what Arizonans are all about.