Pertti Alasuutari

The Populist Turn in a Global Perspective

I discuss changes and cultural trends evident in Finland since the mid-1980s that, I suggest, made a populist turn possible. Paradoxically, the turn toward a more market-oriented public policy, with privatization, marketization and new public management ideas promoted to sectors that were previously part of state activities, paved way to populism. That is because the new competition economy, as I called it in the book “Toinen tasavalta” which came out in 1996, meant that expertise was increasingly challenged. During the more state-centered period, public policies were justified by expert knowledge, whereas during the neoliberalist period it was emphasized that market competition leads to ideal solutions. This change was also reflected in the rise of “alternative facts” and populist characters who ridicule experts and elites.