New economic thinking in Finland — Action on the fringes 

While neoliberalism’s social consequences have been enough to question its merit as an economic system, it could always depend on its one big strength: economic growth. However, years of slow growth, recurring financial crises, and market failures have resulted in scepticism that attacks the system’s foundational promise. As a result, there is a community of “new economic thinking” slowly entering the mainstream. In our publication Turning the Tide — Landscape analysis of an emergent economic movement in Europe, we map the 100+ organisations in Europe that work tirelessly to design and deliver a new economic system. To shed light more broadly on the state of new economic thinking, we conducted interviews with members of this community in four different countries. Here, we dive into Finland. 

By Johannes Nuutinen


The Finnish mainstream intellectual and policy landscapes are heavily permeated with a hegemony of neoliberalism protected by strong defenders. There are, however, many individuals working on alternatives through institutions.

Finland can be characterised as a country with a tight elite, which allows only limited room for alternative thinking. Although this traditional characterisation may have started to crumble in recent decades, economic thought is still emblematic of a consensus-driven past: mainstream discussion is fairly uniform and follows economic dogma. There has neither been room nor funding directed to many organisations working directly on building a new economic movement in Finland. Notable exceptions include the independent research institute BIOS, which pushes for a comprehensive green transformation (and accompanying economic paradigm shift), and Demos Helsinki. In addition, the Finnish system has independent but party-affiliated think tanks funded for each parliamentary party — out of which Kalevi Sorsa Foundation can be seen to advocate for alternative economic policy.

Existing institutions

While the number of independent new economic actors is extremely low, much of the Finnish new economy movement can be seen to be channelled through existing institutions: namely labour unions, Finnish universities, and political parties.

Labour unions

Traditionally labour unions and employee organisations are strong societal actors in Finland. Although labour unions as such don’t push systematically for a new economic agenda, labour union economists are among the most vocal heterodox economists in the Finnish landscape.


While academic economics (and the linked research institutes) generally seem to follow mainstream neoclassical schools of thought, Finnish universities provide an institutional home to many new economic thinkers. These individuals come mainly from non-economic social sciences, such as political economy, sociology, or communications, but their insights have not punched into mainstream debates as credible challenges of neoliberal dogma, but it is noteworthy that universities themselves have acted as a powerful space for debates and conflicts around the adoption of neoliberal policies into universities.

Political parties and individuals

No Finnish political party has adopted a consistent alternative economic agenda into their party programmes. This is not to say that multiple individuals linked with political parties have been champions of new economic thinking. There is a growing group of individuals, both politicians and political advisors who can be seen well-versed in new economic arguments. Furthermore, there is a small but somewhat influential group of non-party affiliated but politically active individuals with the aim of translating new economic arguments into public discussions via traditional and new media channels76.

Framing the future through a debate

These efforts have not, however, translated into a lasting change in the societal landscape, and Finnish societal discussions are still coloured by an abidance to neoliberal dogma. A good example of this is an emerging public discussion on Finland’s budgetary frame. The budgetary frame refers to a spending ceiling set at the beginning of a governmental cycle by which the government agrees to abide. This agreement is heavily facilitated by the Ministry of Finance with the objective of fiscal responsibility spanning political cycles. Now, with EU discussions on green investments as external to the Stability and Growth Pact, some interest in budgetary frames is also growing. Noteworthy from a new economic perspective is the strong backlash to such propositions, both from media op-eds and editorials and from civil servants.

The public debate on the budgetary frame showcases how neoclassical mindsets are entrenched in media and public institutions in Finland. However, it also shows the possibility of change. As Finland is a rather small and cohesive country, it is easy to see the rather rapid changes in public discourse and opinion. Therefore, Finland can provide a fertile landscape for examining different strategies when opening up economic narratives to new economic thought.



This article was written for Demos Helsinki’s landscape analysis of new economic thinking in Europe. It has been slightly edited for style and to provide enough context as a standalone piece.

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Feature Image: Tapio Haaja / Unsplash