Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the Nordic Sociological Association and other guests - I would like to start by welcoming you all to Reykjavik and to Harpa – our new concert hall and conference centre.
It is perhaps in many ways very appropriate that this reception for you, who are participating in the conference on Trust and Social Change, is held here in this hall. Almost four years ago, Iceland underwent, as you all know, severe crisis, a collapse of the economic system and of trust in society, in general. Here, at the centre of the capital, this building stood, half- built, as a gigantic monument of the crisis, reminding everybody that went by of the situation in society. In the early days of 2009, the newly elected government was faced with the problem of not only rebuilding the foundation of state-economy, but also to re-establish confidence of the Icelandic nation and public trust for the pillars that this society is built on.
As for Harpa, some voiced the idea of letting it stand here, half-built as a monument of the glory-days of money-lending and spending before the crash. However, the government decided to cut the losses, and continue to build Harpa, and by that making it a symbol of what can be done, to rebuild society. One could even claim that it is also a symbol for the mission of this government – to make governmental administration and decision-making solid but more or less transparent!
Dear guests – trust and social change - the concept of this conference is something that we have been dealing with here in Iceland for a long time now. The ideas of the German sociologist Niklas Luhman about the need for every human to be able to trust the system comes to mind when dealing with recent past. We Icelanders must honestly confess that it has not been easy to be able to trust the basic elements of modern society in recent years.
But on more positive notes one can also become fascinated by how the rapid progress of technology has impacted constructs such as trust. This is specifically true for information technology that dramatically alters causation in social systems. During the protests against the parliament and the former government in the winter of 2008-2009, Iceland experienced a new way of protests, organised with modern technique, that the younger generations are able to master. The same could be seen in North Africa in recent years.
Honoured guests – I trust that this conference will be a fruitful venue for you all for stimulating discussion on trust and social change, and I am convinced that the results will help us to understand in a better manner, how we can deal with the dilemmas of modern society.
Welcome to Iceland, welcome to Harpa, and I hope you have a pleasant stay