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The most spectacular contribution from the nordic countries to intellectual disability policy is probably the idea of normalization, but it is not the simplistic notion that can be inferred from international debate. Its major significance may have been to act as an inspiring catchword for the important trend away from institutions into integrated living. However, it is more fully understood when seen in the concrete context where it has successively developed, and been critically analysed and tested in operation. Scandinavian sociologists and psychologists-as well as politicians-were also among the first to use the concept of quality of life for analysis of social policy, including intellectual disability. The primary medium for implementation has been legislation, where the dominant difficulty is to find a balance between security and freedom, protection and self-determination. Through this process, the role of social engineering in the welfare state, based on humanistic ideas of solidarity, can be followed into today's emphasis on individual influence and participation.