The True Colors of Finnish Welfare Nationalism

Consolidation of Neo-Populist Advocacy as a Resonant Collective Identity through Mobilization of Exclusionary Narratives of Blue-and-White Solidarity

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

Abstract

At the beginning of the millennium, a concern for the future of the welfare state in the globalized era was widely shared across the Finnish political spectrum. Further politicizing the question of immigration, neo-populist advocates mobilized a markedly heterogeneous constituency to support the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset party, establishing the previously minor party among the three largest ones in the parliament. Employing a wide range of narratives, specifically tailored to different arenas of public debate, neo-populism soon acquired a chameleonic character that allowed front-line politicians and grassroots level advocates to secure support from constituencies in the blue-collared working-class, the middle classes and the dot.net generation. Instrumental in the expansion of the Perussuomalaiset voter base was the neo-populists ability to consistently facilitate exposure in the media for a welfare nationalist political agenda that framed their exclusionary immigration critique as part of a mundane socio-political debate aimed at saving our welfare state.

In order to examine the consolidation of neo-populism into a resonant collective identity, the present study operationalizes theoretical contributions from critical nationalism studies a compound body of literature in sociology, political science and media studies into three analytical lenses. Triangulating between these lenses, the empirical analysis focuses on the narrative agency of neo-populist advocates, uncovering how the seedbed of favorable political opportunity structures was harnessed in their political mobilization.

The collection of narrative data from a variety of arenas of public debate, and its subsequent analysis, is structured by a historical reconstruction of three critical turning points taking place before, during and right after the electoral victory of the Perussuomalaiset in 2011. The results of this doctoral study point to a conclusion that neo-populist mobilization was first advanced through narratives of exclusionary boundary-work, employed for the purpose of justifying a welfare nationalist focus on immigration politics as the panacea for the ailing welfare state. Constructing an idealized legacy of an empowering welfare state and harmoniously homogeneous civil society, neo-populists proliferated public stories that place the blame for the welfare state s globalized challenges on immigration. Moreover, through strategic social action in various online arenas of contested media space, the neo-populists sought to further personalize and emotionalize the debate on immigration. This served to consolidate a collective identity based on victimized self-understanding, whereby their political opponents and public critics were positioned into distinct enemy categories, such as the elite controlled media, irresponsible Green Khmers and detached ladies with flowery hats.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-10-8836-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-8837-7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2015
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology
  • populism
  • nationalism
  • welfare state
  • public discourse
  • media
  • activism
  • radicalism
  • parliament
  • social media

Cite this

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title = "The True Colors of Finnish Welfare Nationalism: Consolidation of Neo-Populist Advocacy as a Resonant Collective Identity through Mobilization of Exclusionary Narratives of Blue-and-White Solidarity",
abstract = "At the beginning of the millennium, a concern for the future of the welfare state in the globalized era was widely shared across the Finnish political spectrum. Further politicizing the question of immigration, neo-populist advocates mobilized a markedly heterogeneous constituency to support the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset party, establishing the previously minor party among the three largest ones in the parliament. Employing a wide range of narratives, specifically tailored to different arenas of public debate, neo-populism soon acquired a chameleonic character that allowed front-line politicians and grassroots level advocates to secure support from constituencies in the blue-collared working-class, the middle classes and the dot.net generation. Instrumental in the expansion of the Perussuomalaiset voter base was the neo-populists ability to consistently facilitate exposure in the media for a welfare nationalist political agenda that framed their exclusionary immigration critique as part of a mundane socio-political debate aimed at saving our welfare state. In order to examine the consolidation of neo-populism into a resonant collective identity, the present study operationalizes theoretical contributions from critical nationalism studies a compound body of literature in sociology, political science and media studies into three analytical lenses. Triangulating between these lenses, the empirical analysis focuses on the narrative agency of neo-populist advocates, uncovering how the seedbed of favorable political opportunity structures was harnessed in their political mobilization. The collection of narrative data from a variety of arenas of public debate, and its subsequent analysis, is structured by a historical reconstruction of three critical turning points taking place before, during and right after the electoral victory of the Perussuomalaiset in 2011. The results of this doctoral study point to a conclusion that neo-populist mobilization was first advanced through narratives of exclusionary boundary-work, employed for the purpose of justifying a welfare nationalist focus on immigration politics as the panacea for the ailing welfare state. Constructing an idealized legacy of an empowering welfare state and harmoniously homogeneous civil society, neo-populists proliferated public stories that place the blame for the welfare state s globalized challenges on immigration. Moreover, through strategic social action in various online arenas of contested media space, the neo-populists sought to further personalize and emotionalize the debate on immigration. This served to consolidate a collective identity based on victimized self-understanding, whereby their political opponents and public critics were positioned into distinct enemy categories, such as the elite controlled media, irresponsible Green Khmers and detached ladies with flowery hats.",
keywords = "5141 Sociology, populism, nationalism, welfare state, public discourse, media, activism, radicalism, parliament, social media",
author = "Pyrh{\"o}nen, {Niko Johannes}",
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publisher = "University of Helsinki, Swedish School of Social Science",
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N2 - At the beginning of the millennium, a concern for the future of the welfare state in the globalized era was widely shared across the Finnish political spectrum. Further politicizing the question of immigration, neo-populist advocates mobilized a markedly heterogeneous constituency to support the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset party, establishing the previously minor party among the three largest ones in the parliament. Employing a wide range of narratives, specifically tailored to different arenas of public debate, neo-populism soon acquired a chameleonic character that allowed front-line politicians and grassroots level advocates to secure support from constituencies in the blue-collared working-class, the middle classes and the dot.net generation. Instrumental in the expansion of the Perussuomalaiset voter base was the neo-populists ability to consistently facilitate exposure in the media for a welfare nationalist political agenda that framed their exclusionary immigration critique as part of a mundane socio-political debate aimed at saving our welfare state. In order to examine the consolidation of neo-populism into a resonant collective identity, the present study operationalizes theoretical contributions from critical nationalism studies a compound body of literature in sociology, political science and media studies into three analytical lenses. Triangulating between these lenses, the empirical analysis focuses on the narrative agency of neo-populist advocates, uncovering how the seedbed of favorable political opportunity structures was harnessed in their political mobilization. The collection of narrative data from a variety of arenas of public debate, and its subsequent analysis, is structured by a historical reconstruction of three critical turning points taking place before, during and right after the electoral victory of the Perussuomalaiset in 2011. The results of this doctoral study point to a conclusion that neo-populist mobilization was first advanced through narratives of exclusionary boundary-work, employed for the purpose of justifying a welfare nationalist focus on immigration politics as the panacea for the ailing welfare state. Constructing an idealized legacy of an empowering welfare state and harmoniously homogeneous civil society, neo-populists proliferated public stories that place the blame for the welfare state s globalized challenges on immigration. Moreover, through strategic social action in various online arenas of contested media space, the neo-populists sought to further personalize and emotionalize the debate on immigration. This served to consolidate a collective identity based on victimized self-understanding, whereby their political opponents and public critics were positioned into distinct enemy categories, such as the elite controlled media, irresponsible Green Khmers and detached ladies with flowery hats.

AB - At the beginning of the millennium, a concern for the future of the welfare state in the globalized era was widely shared across the Finnish political spectrum. Further politicizing the question of immigration, neo-populist advocates mobilized a markedly heterogeneous constituency to support the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset party, establishing the previously minor party among the three largest ones in the parliament. Employing a wide range of narratives, specifically tailored to different arenas of public debate, neo-populism soon acquired a chameleonic character that allowed front-line politicians and grassroots level advocates to secure support from constituencies in the blue-collared working-class, the middle classes and the dot.net generation. Instrumental in the expansion of the Perussuomalaiset voter base was the neo-populists ability to consistently facilitate exposure in the media for a welfare nationalist political agenda that framed their exclusionary immigration critique as part of a mundane socio-political debate aimed at saving our welfare state. In order to examine the consolidation of neo-populism into a resonant collective identity, the present study operationalizes theoretical contributions from critical nationalism studies a compound body of literature in sociology, political science and media studies into three analytical lenses. Triangulating between these lenses, the empirical analysis focuses on the narrative agency of neo-populist advocates, uncovering how the seedbed of favorable political opportunity structures was harnessed in their political mobilization. The collection of narrative data from a variety of arenas of public debate, and its subsequent analysis, is structured by a historical reconstruction of three critical turning points taking place before, during and right after the electoral victory of the Perussuomalaiset in 2011. The results of this doctoral study point to a conclusion that neo-populist mobilization was first advanced through narratives of exclusionary boundary-work, employed for the purpose of justifying a welfare nationalist focus on immigration politics as the panacea for the ailing welfare state. Constructing an idealized legacy of an empowering welfare state and harmoniously homogeneous civil society, neo-populists proliferated public stories that place the blame for the welfare state s globalized challenges on immigration. Moreover, through strategic social action in various online arenas of contested media space, the neo-populists sought to further personalize and emotionalize the debate on immigration. This served to consolidate a collective identity based on victimized self-understanding, whereby their political opponents and public critics were positioned into distinct enemy categories, such as the elite controlled media, irresponsible Green Khmers and detached ladies with flowery hats.

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KW - welfare state

KW - public discourse

KW - media

KW - activism

KW - radicalism

KW - parliament

KW - social media

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