Power and Society in Finland (2007-2010)


Finnish society and its power structure had changed considerably during the
decades before this programme. Finland had become a member of the European Union, Finnish companies had internationalised, the Finnish economy was thoroughly integrated into the global economy, and Finnish culture had developed  towards value pluralism. The research programme examined the impact these  changes in Finnish society had on its power structures and on those who exert  power in Finland. The use of power in Finland was, and still is, also shaped by  differences in income, work, geography, religion, gender and ethnicity. The  research programme focused on the challenges of the future with the help of  insights provided by a study of the historical developments of Finnish power.

Programme memorandum


In Finland, the broader policy changes had been largely enacted without extensive public debate. Even though specific studies and evaluations had been conducted on the impact these changes had on the lives of citizens, democracy, distribution of power and administrative protocol, a comprehensive interpretation was still needed. A principal goal of the research programme was to produce this kind of broad-based research on power and its historical changes in Finland. Another key goal was to produce new empirical findings on concrete processes of power, as power is nearly always exercised in concrete ways. In addition to scientific research on power, the programme encouraged high-profile multidisciplinary research as well as comparative perspectives on power. It also strengthened national and international networking and cooperation among researchers. Special attention was directed at the exchange of information and reporting on research results. The research programme had an ambition to actively participate in the public debate on power in Finland.


1 International system, power in Finland and Finnish power

A large percentage of the decisions regarding Finnish welfare policies and employment practices are made in transnational contexts and constrained by supranational regulations. How do initiatives affecting the lives of Finnish citizens originate, develop and filter to the national level? In what kind of political communities is power produced? What are Finland's possibilities for operating in an increasingly integrated world? Who has the power to control these processes? The research programme did not focus exclusively on political and economic issues, as complex power relations need also to be studied in such areas as human rights, culture, justice and morality systems, which are equally important as interfaces between international politics and power.


2 Power in the state and state power

Consensus politics, which emphasises the Nordic welfare state and the ideals of cooperation and consensus, is considered central to the Finnish power structure. The research programme examined how internationalisation and integration had shaped this policy through power structures and mechanisms within the state. How had international agreements and EU legislation affected the power structures and mechanisms in Finland? What changes were apparent in power relations between different public institutions? How were elite structures changed? How had the significance of expertise become emphasised? Through which mechanisms were the global, European, national and local levels connected and what were the impacts of these connections on power in Finland?

3 Economy and power

Economic globalisation had created a collective image of economic power extending nearly everywhere in today's world. What was clear is that the importance of global economy, integrated markets, new market areas and the international competitiveness had increased. What kind of upheaval had the Finnish economic system experienced due to these macro-level developments? Was the power of economy expanding? How had the operating logic of business economics affected the market as well as public organisations? How was economic knowledge produced and what kind of public and invisible power was operating in economic policy?

4 Citizens and civil society

Citizen participation, voluntary associations and social movements are an integral part of the social and cultural power structure. Depending on the actor in question, they may either maintain and support the prevailing system or criticise it and create alternatives. In Finland, the strong position of different voluntary associations had influenced the way the state functions, including the formation of the welfare state. What kind of role had voluntary organisations and associations occupied in the Finnish power system, and how had their function as service providers and channels of information changed? How was power identified and interpreted from the point of view of citizen participation? Were there elements in the power system which constrained citizen participation? The research programme comprehended the study of both small grassroots protest movements and institutionalised third sector actors.

5 The media and power

One of the greatest changes in the power structure had occurred in the field of information exchange. The restructuring of the Finnish media, its relation to other sectors of the power structure, and media operating principles were crucial areas of this power inquiry. What was the significance of the media economy, changes in ownership structures, consolidation, the formation of chains and convergence in relation to power? Did the media passively reflect power structures or was it actively creating them? In addition to mainstream media, there were also counter media and alternative media. For example, the media geared toward a youth audience was also linked to counterculture and social critique. How did publicity support citizenship, allow for participation and the formation of critical opinions? What did the power of media actually entail?

6 Gender and power

Gender inequality in the Finnish social power structure was still considerable. The research programme examined, in a traditional sense, the differences in the use of public and private power between men and women. But it was equally important to study how power produced gender identities, and how power was gendered in Finland. Central themes included changes in society's prevailing gender order and the gendered impact of the retrenchment of the welfare state. What opportunities for influence did an institutional power structure offer women in Finland, especially with regard to the internationalisation of politics and economy? An empirical study of power networks and the recruitment of elites from a gender perspective was also a relevant part of the research programme.


The Academy of Finland funded the Power in Finland research programme projects with 6,5 million euros during the years 2007-2010.

Programme Evaluation report (published April 23, 2012)

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