Master of Social Sciences Wahlsten Johan

124000 €

The Party Politics of Expertise: Party experts and the changing contours of Finnish social democracy in 1920–2010

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

This project focuses on the precarious relationships between political parties and expertise and democratic politics and knowledge. Starting from the premise that party experts, by interpreting the world and offering truth-claims of it, are central actors in shaping parties’ ideological dispositions, language, and their changes, I take the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) as my case study. Yet experts are often also situated in professional fields, which condition what counts as valid knowledge. Indeed, their understanding of socio-economic phenomena is contingent on their social positions and trajectories. The aim is to provide a pertinent account of the SDP’s key conjunctural changes by focusing on the kinds of experts, with variant institutional positions, that have resided in the SDP and grasp their and their truth-claims party effects. This demands a focus on both intraparty and inter-field dynamics. Methodologically I draw from the interdisciplinary tradition of historical sociology and Bourdieusian theory of social fields. The research material consists of archival sources; (auto)biographies; reference works; newspaper pieces; and interviews. While the politics–knowledge connection has been much studied, parties have been mostly neglected, and the existing research on the left parties–expertise nexus has focused on parties embedded in “core countries”. I extend this focus to the more peripheral and state-centric society of Finland, thus enhancing our knowledge of historical and causal processes relating to the role of expertise in parties and their changes. The work also increases our grasp of critical contemporary trends, from the scientization of politics to the hollowing of political representation and interest mediation. Since one possible role of party experts and their truth-claims is the intermediation between party leaders and represented groups, the aim is also to gain insights into what kind of expertise may cultivate representative democracy.