Populism has often been understood as a description of political parties and politicians, who have been labelled either populist or not. This book argues that it is more useful to conceive of populism in action: as something that is done rather than something that is. I propose that the populist toolkit is a collection of cultural practices, which politicians and citizens use to make sense of and do politics, by claiming that ‘the people’ are opposed by a corrupt elite – a powerful claim in contemporary politics, both in Finland and internationally. The concept of the populist toolkit has analytical utility, since it can separate a set of populist repertoires from others, for example that of exclusionary nationalism, and takes seriously the effect culture has on action, while avoiding cultural determinism.
The volume contains studies of four instances in which the populist toolkit was used in Finnish politics from 2007 to 2016. They employ qualitative and computational analysis of texts produced by the Finns Party and its politicians, mainstream and ‘alternative’ media, and citizens participating in public debates online. The first of these studies argues that the economic condition of the Eurozone in 2011 gave the Finns Party an opportunity to frame the situation as a crisis for Finland and to present itself as a righteous populist challenger to established parties. The second shows that the Finns Party uses anti-feminist arguments to present itself as a populist alternative. The third study presents a theory of how populist argumentation can use familiar emotional experiences in bonding ‘the people’ together. Finally, the fourth one tackles the populist epistemology: while populism can be critical of intellectuals and experts in general, the study argues that another populist strategy is counterknowledge, incorporating alternative knowledge authorities. All in all, the book contributes to the study of Finnish populism and to a general and sociological understanding of populism as a lasting but varying phenomenon of political culture.
Publications of the Faculty of Social Sciences 59