The civil society of post modern FinlandAaro Harju
The next transitional period of civil society was in the 1980s. The Western ideal of individualism inspired Finnish people as well. The nation of corporations and systems of organizations began to transform itself into individualistic Finland.
The relative status of organizational activities in trade unions and political parties began to go into decline from the end of the 1970s onwards. People’s interests were now directed more towards hobbies, sports and exercise, culture, and environmental organizations. This was visible in the rapid increase in the number of leisure and lifestyle associations. (Siisiäinen 1996c, 42) Hence the total volume of civic activities remained the same, or even grew, despite the dramatic change in emphasis between different groups of organizations at the end of the twentieth century.
Civic and organizational activities disintegrated when most of the traditional, large organizations begun to lose members, while small new associations with very specific agendas were formed. The traditional strong bond between organizations and political movements weakened at the same time. The key trend of civic activities was division. (Itkonen 2000, 16–17)
New organizations and movements have widened the scope of civic activities in the last decades and years. Nature conservation and the environmental movement gave birth to the green movement, after which Finland has experienced squatters since 1979, the animal rights activism of the 1990s, and the arrival of the new international movements (for example, the anti-globalization movement) at the end of the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first century. These movements have been small in volume, but they have assumed a social significance of an extent which is many times out of proportion to their size. In this sense the phenomenon is similar to that of the early 1960s when the associations of young radicals became the object of media publicity with their initiatives.
The new movements and organizations introduced new viewpoints and working methods to the field of civic activities, for example, a much stronger international dimension and the concept of spontaneous action which does not necessarily even aspire to stability or permanence. (Itkonen 2000, 17)
Finnish civic organizations are in transition once again. The strong organizational phase, the bureaucratic period, is again giving way to a less organized and more spontaneous kind of activity. The tendency is a shift away from the organizational orientation back to the movement orientation.
In Finland non-institutional civic activities, not based on associations, have traditionally been rare. The reason for this has been the politicised nature of civic activities and their close connections with the state, the traditionally strong position of authorities and the limited societal discourse. (Keränen & Mäkitalo 1987, 42; Siisiäinen 1998, 239) Even spontaneous civic activities and the radical protest movements have been quick to get organized. This appears to continue to happen in Finnish society in the twenty-first century. At the same time the associations efficiently transform even radical movements into peaceful actors within the organized domain of civic activities. (Siisiäinen 1998, 230–232)
From the end of the 1970s onwards, people’s societal interest decreased. This was visible in the trade unions and political parties. Trade union memberships remained high because of the earnings-related unemployment benefits, but the workers’ enthusiasm in local trade unions faded. The same happened in political parties.
Linked to the transition at the turn of the millennium, was also the foundation of new small-scale cooperations. Finland underwent a severe economic recession at the beginning of the 1990s. Some of those who lost their jobs employed themselves by setting up their own co-operative enterprises. Cooperation was also the chosen model of business of alternative life style people who sold organically farmed products, alternative treatments, or set up new kinds of living communities.
People’s growing interest in their own lives, instead of society, had an influence on non-formal adult education, too. People were studying languages, focusing on their interests and looking after their mental and physical health. In informal and non-formal learning the emphasis was on issues touching upon one’s own circle of life instead of the societal themes.