Managing fragile democracy: Constitutionalist ethos and constrained democracy in Finland

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This article examines the role that the constitution and the deep-seated, cultural respect for constitutional and administrative stability have played in Finland. The text examines this tradition in a long historical perspective stretching from the nineteenth-century administrative and cultural ‘defence’ battles to the militant legalist protection of the constitutional stability in the 1930s, and, finally, analyses the slow but determined turn towards a more distinctively ‘Nordic’, more integrative and inclusive, model of managing the fragilities within
modern democracy. The article argues that Finland of the early twentieth century presents an exceptionally early case of militant and defensive democracy, and, moreover, one that demonstrates the role of the long-term politico-cultural traditions in the adoption of features of militant democracy in a society. This
distinctively defensive, and at times, militant constitutionalist ethos has served to protect democracy at many critical moments in the history of twentieth-century Finland. Yet, the protection has often been secondary to the main priority, namely, the maintenance of the stability of the existing constitutional order. This attitude has marked the notions and practices of modern democracy throughout the twentieth century in Finland.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Modern European History
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)519-538
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5201 Political History
  • 517 Political science

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