What is Finnish about The Finns Party? Political Culture and Populism

Research output: ThesisMaster's thesisTheses

Abstract

This Master’s thesis focuses on the arguments and justifications of Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset, PS) candidates before the Finnish parliamentary elections of 2011, where the populist party succeeded tremendously, over quadrupling its share of votes. The context is one of a rising tide of nationalist populism in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe. Other studies have theoretically and empirically provided some explanations for this dynamic both elsewhere and in Finland. However, a study of political sociology on the Finns Party candidates’ argumentation can shed light on the cultural specificity the nationalist populist phenomenon takes on in the Finnish case. It is argued here that this specificity is born out of the legacy of Finnish populism, nationalism and political culture, including the legacy of the Finnish Rural Party (Suomen maaseudun puolue, SMP, 1959–1995), the predecessor of the PS.

Data that facilitates such an analysis is found in the Helsingin Sanomat Voting Advice Application. This political questionnaire was answered by 202 (85%) PS candidates and released online as open data, providing a unique dataset not previously available. By a content analysis informed by the justification theory of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot, the study answers the following questions: How is Finnish political culture and history visible in the way the European populist phenomenon takes its shape in the PS? Is the PS geographically divided to a rural part with SMP rural populist roots and an urban part in line with the
contemporary European populist radical right? It was hypothesized that rural PS populism is more left-wing in nature and stresses rural poverty, whereas urban PS populism sees immigration issues as more salient and is more right-wing in its economic policy. The rural candidates were expected to present justifications based on equality and social justice more often, and the urban candidates to use ones based on market efficiency. This hypothesis indeed holds true, according to the results of this study, but with some critical corrections.

First, the rural/urban division is not as clear-cut as hypothesized. The radical right candidates are a minority even within the urban candidates. The mainstream of rural and urban candidates was more of a left-populist nature. Second, while a gender aspect was missing from the hypothesis, gender was indeed to be considered, since the radical right candidates were even more overwhelmingly male than they were urban. Third, while there were differences between the rural and urban candidates in their usage of justifications, this varied with the question and was not as consistent as hypothesized.

Nevertheless, the use of justifications based on efficiency was notable. Both rural and urban candidates often related to political issues as to be decided upon with calculations of expected consequences. This is something that is typical of Finnish political culture, and in this study, it is found to be typical of Finnish populism as well.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeG2 Master's thesis, polytechnic Master's thesis

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology
  • populism
  • finns party
  • justification theory
  • political sociology
  • protest movements
  • political culture

Cite this

Ylä-Anttila, T. (2012). What is Finnish about The Finns Party? Political Culture and Populism. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences.