Digital Lifestyles Between Solidarity, Discipline and Neoliberalism: On the Historical Transformations of the Danish IT Political Field from 1994 to 2016

  • Morten Hjelholt IT University of Copenhagen
  • Jannick Schou IT University of Copenhagen
Keywords: Digitalization, Digital Governance, Digital Lifestyles, IT policies, Pierre Bourdieu, Field Theory, Danish State, Digital Technologies, Neoliberalism


Governments have increasingly turned to digital technologies as a means of rebuilding their public sectors, allowing them to heighten efficiency, cut expenditure, and deliver new services to citizens. However, rather than merely a technical upgrading of governmental institutions, digital reforms and IT policymaking are deeply political practices concerned with producing and imposing certain normative and ideological visions of the social world. Denmark is often labelled as a leading nation in terms of implementing digital governance, but the political and normative dimensions of digital reforms within the Danish welfare state are yet to be systematically investigated. This paper provides a historical study of Danish IT policies from 1994 to 2016. Relying on archival research of national policies and drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s work on the state, we explore how the IT political field has emerged through symbolic struggles over time and how these struggles have produced particular forms of “digital lifestyles”. We find that two overall logics have dominated within the Danish IT political field. In 1994-2001, solidarity, equality and local Danish values were highlighting as core components of a digital life, but from 2002, however, economic efficiency, competitiveness and self-governance become the main ideals. In this way, the IT political field has increasingly come to converge with neoliberal discourses concerned with imposing market-like dynamics on the public sector and population. The paper concludes with a reflection on how the concept of digital lifestyles may help us understand these changes, and argues that the current dominant discourse should be challenged.

Author Biographies

Morten Hjelholt, IT University of Copenhagen
Morten Hjelholt (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen and Head of the Digital Design and Communication Study Program.
Jannick Schou, IT University of Copenhagen
Jannick Schou is a PhD fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen. He is part of the research project “Data as Relation: Governance in the age of big data” funded by the Velux Foundation.