University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 10 Jan 2015. Experts and decision-makers are presented as visionary actors while Finnish citizens are viewed passive in taking part in political discussion of the future (Kettunen)

Start date: Jan 10, 2015 12:00 PM

End date: Jan 10, 2015 03:00 PM

Location: seminaarinmaki, Seminarium, Vanha juhlasali, S212

Dissertation news in Finnish - tiedote suomeksi

Anu Kettunen
Anu Kettunen. Photo tv-k
M.Soc.Sc. Anu Kettunen defends her doctoral dissertation in Political Science ”Aika, yksilö- ja yhteiskuntakäsitykset suomalaisessa tulevaisuuspolitiikassa”. Opponent Professor Risto Heiskala (University of Tampere) and custos Professor Marja Keränen (University of Jyväskylä). The event is in Finnish.

In recent decades, future has become an increasingly important topic on the Finnish political agenda. Many different parties have participated in the work of anticipating the future trends of Finnish society. Citizens and stakeholders have also been invited to participate in this work. This study examines Finnish foresight work from 1993 to 2010. The research focuses on foresight projects that operated on a national level and analyses texts that outline the future of the whole society or nation. The research data consists of reports on the future published by, among others, the government, the parliament, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the think tank Demos Helsinki. The study asks, what sphere of action the foresight work belongs to, to what extent the future of Finland is politicised and who is seen as a legitimate actor in this field in the foresight texts.

In this research, foresight work is understood and studied as a political phenomenon. The political dimensions of foresight are analysed according to the way projects are organised and how participants are selected, by how concepts of time in constructing future visions are used as well as in terms of how the human individual and society are understood and the possibilities of political action embedded in these understandings.

The theoretical framework of the study consists of governmentality studies and, theories of time, along with concepts and theories concerning the human individual and human associations developed by the British political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. The foresight texts are analysed by applying frame analysis.

The study shows that the experts and the decision-makers are presented as the main actors in Finnish foresight work. They are described as visionary actors in this field while Finnish citizens are viewed as being passive and incapable of taking part in political action and discussion. This negative view of Finnish citizens’ capabilities leads to their being ignored in the discussions of Finland’s future.

The research also shows that Finnish national foresight texts tend to depoliticise the future of Finland in many ways. This de-politicisation appears, for example, in how the foresight texts often present one future vision or one policy as the only possible outcome without any alternatives. This process can further be seen in how the future as a time dimension is often understood as a closed space for political action. However, there is variation in this picture.

At times, some actors challenge earlier views of the future and open up discussions from new perspectives. The study suggests that foresight work should be politicised and that citizens should be seen as active political actors who are to be given the possibility to participate in choosing and discussing the future of Finland.

Keywords: foresight, future politics, Michael Oakeshott, governmentality, frame analysis, time, Finland