Culture and Politics in the Age of Egoism
Research and Policy Days 4.-5. November 2010
This year’s Research and Policy Days focused on changes in the relationship between politics, culture and the economy. We are said to be living in the age of ‘quartile economy’, but are we also seeing the same trend toward short-termism in the fields of politics and culture? How has free market liberalism and the culture of ‘instant gratification’ affected our way and pace of life? What are the causes and implications of such trends?
The two-day event began with a plenary session analysing the current socio-cultural state of European societies and the changes in the relationship between culture, politics and economics. How has the interaction between the various sectors changed in recent times?
The discussion was opened by Samuel Jones, Policy Fellow at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The plenary session of the second day focused on the potential benefits of developing interactions between culture, economics and politics. What does a progressive culture look like? How can politics benefit from cultural debates and vice versa? The topic was introduced by Erkki Tuomioja, Member of the Finnish Parliament and Arto Halonen, Director.
The specific implications of the changes of patterns between culture and society were debated in four working groups on Thursday 4th November. The working groups discussed the arguments related to the decline of general knowledge and the penetration of the logic of free market liberalism into politics and culture, as well as changes in political dramaturgy, quality of journalism and new methods of delivering political messages.
Thursday, 4th November
Elisabeth Helander, Kalevi Sorsa Foundation
Judit Tanczos, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
12.00–14.30 Culture and politics in the age of egoism
Samuel Jones, Policy Fellow at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Dr Rene Cuperus, Director for international relations and a Senior Research Fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Foundation
14.30–15.00 Coffee break
15.00–18.00 Working group sessions
The topics were introduced by Paolo Borioni, Researcher specialising in Nordic history and Visiting Fellow at Helsinki University, Rene Cuperus, Director for International Relations and Senior Research fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, Heta Gylling, Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at Helsinki University, Veijo Hietala, Senior Lecturer in Cinema Studies, Docent
(Lecturer) in Cinema and Television Studies at Jyväskylä University and Tampere University, Juha Jokela, Playwright and Director, Mikael Jungner, Party Secretary of the SDP, Nic Newman, Journalist and Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University and Tuomas Nevanlinna, Writer and Columnist.
19.00 Dinner & Cultural programme
Restaurant Loisteen kaarre
Friday, 5th November
10.00–12.00 The future of progressive culture and politics
Erkki Tuomioja, Member of the Finnish Parliament
Arto Halonen, Director
13.00–14.00 Working group conclusions
Chairs of the working groups presented their conclusions
14.00–15.30 Closing debate: Political culture and cultural politics
Main speakers of the Research and Policy Days
1. Fear Factor: Short-sightedness in Culture, Politics and Economy
Heta Gylling, Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Helsinki
Arja Alho, Editor in Chief of Ydin magazine
We are said to be living in the age of ‘quartile economy’ characterised by short-term perspectives and immediacy. The working group discussed whether the logic of free market liberalism has penetrated into the fields of politics and culture. Are we following the trends of shortened timeframes and discontinuity in politics and culture as well? How does such a trend manifest itself and what are its implications? What could be changed? What are the potential benefits of developing interactions between culture, politics and economy?
2. X Factor – The Loss of Historical Memory
Paolo Borioni, Researcher specialising in Nordic history and Visiting Fellow at the University of Helsinki
Rene Cuperus, Director for International Relations and Senior Research Fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Foundation
Pilvi Torsti, Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Helsinki
The working group discussed the decline of social and historical awareness. What is the
relevance of historical and cultural knowledge in contemporary European societies? The age of ‘quartile economy’ is characterised by trends such as short-term perspectives and discontinuity. Is there still time for critical thinking and for contemplating the ‘bigger picture’? Is our historical and cultural knowledge declining as a result of a more hectic and market oriented environment and what are the consequences of this trend?
3. Big Brother Politics
Veijo Hietala, Senior Lecturer in Cinema Studies, Docent (Lecturer) in Cinema and Television Studies at Jyväskylä University and Tampere University
Juha Jokela, Playwright and Director
The working group debated changes in political dramaturgy and the relationship between politics, entertainment and democracy. Is there a cultural change that explains the appearance of politics as entertainment? How should politicians react to such a trend? Is it possible to enhance democracy by combining politics and entertainment? What should be the role of citizens? In what ways can citizens participate?
4. Poke a Politician – Political Messages and (New) Media
Mikael Jungner, Party Secretary of the SDP
Nic Newman, Journalist and Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University Tuomas Nevanlinna, Writer and Columnist
An article by the Finnish broadcasting company YLE (in Finnish)
The working analysed changes in political style, quality of journalism and the effectiveness of new media in delivering political messages. Today’s political journalism is often criticised for being superficial and sensationalistic and for concentrating on individual politicians rather than the issues at hand. Social media is increasingly being employed by political parties as a tool of delivering messages to potential voters. What is the relationship between mainstream media and the new media channels? Who will shape the agenda? Is the rise of social media allowing political messages to be distributed more effectively and are more people as a result becoming interested in politics? What effect will a such development have on the quality, accuracy and trustworthiness of political messages and political journalism?
Arja Alho holds a PhD in Political Science and currently works as Editor in Chief of Ydin magazine. Ms Alho has been a Member of the Finnish Parliament from 1983 to 1999 and from 2003 to 2007. She has also held several ministerial positions, including Second Minister of Finance (1995-1997).
Paolo Borioni holds a PhD in Nordic history from the University of Copenhagen and is presently a visiting fellow at Helsinki University. He works for two think tanks close to the Italian left: The Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini and Fondazione Istituto Gramsci. Borioni has collaborated with several universities and think tanks, and has written or edited several books and many articles on Nordic history, welfare state and social democracy.
Dr Rene Cuperus is a Director for international relations and a Senior research fellow at the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, the think tank of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). He is a political and cultural historian, who used to write a column for the Volkskrant newspaper. He was a co-founder of the Forum ‘Scholars for European Social Democracy’, a network of center-left think tanks. He currently writes a political blog at social-europe.eu.
Heta Aleksandra Gylling is a Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Her areas of specialty include social and political philosophy, ethics, especially applied ethics, and philosophy of law.
Arto Halonen has directed numerous films, including Prinsessa (2010) and the documentary films The Magnetic Man, Pavlov’s Dogs, Conquistadors of Cuba, The Tank Man. In 2005 he was awarded the Finland Prize, the highest annual prize in the arts given by the Ministry of Culture and the state. Halonen is also the founder and the first festival director of the DocPoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival. Currently he is producer of the Art Films production AFP Ltd.
Veijo Hietala, Ph.D. (Doc. Phil.) is a Senior Lecturer in Cinema Studies, Docent (Lecturer) in Cinema and Television Studies at Jyväskylä University and Tampere University.
Juha Jokela is a Finnish playwright, scriptwriter and director. Following the success of his first play Mobile Horror presented by Theatre Jurkka, Juha Jokela became one of the leading theatre authors in Finland. In 2008 he received Nordic Drama Award for his play Fundamentalisti. Currently on stage at the Espoo City Theatre, Performance Economy (Esitystalous, 2010) has achieved both popular and critical success. His tv-production Firma won Venla Award for best comedy series and screenplay. Jokela was also involved in making the TV series Remontti, Kallio and Pulkkinen.
Samuel Jones is currently a policy fellow at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The fellowship is hosted jointly with the think tank, Demos, where he leads on cultural work. Samuel Jones is the author of several pamphlets, including Cultural Diplomacy, All Together – a three year observation of organisational change at the Royal Shakespeare Company – and Expressive Lives. He will speak on the subject of his fellowship, which addresses the importance to the cultural realm and expression to politics and society more widely.
Mikael Jungner is the Party Secretary of the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was previously the director of YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Company.
Tuomas Nevanlinna is a Finnish writer and columnist. He is the author of several books among them Hyväkuntoisena taivaaseen (1999), Surullinen tapiiri (2002) and Kuninkaista ja narreista (2006). Together with Jukka Relander, Tuomas Nevanlinna has a programme called Tukevasti ilmassa on Radio Helsinki.
Nic Newman is a journalist and digital strategist who played a key role in shaping the BBC’s internet services over more than a decade. He was a founding member of the BBC News Website, leading international coverage as World Editor (1997–2001). As Head of Product Development for BBC News, he helped introduce innovations such as blogs, podcasting and on-demand video. Nic Newman is currently a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University, where he is the author of two recent papers: UK election 2010, mainstream media and the role of the internet and The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism.
Pilvi Torsti holds a PhD in Social Science and works as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Helsinki. She runs a research project titled ’Historical consciousness in Finland’, which studies historical thinking of the Finnish population. Ms Torsti has lectured and published on history didactics and political uses of history; peace studies and on various topics related to the former Yugoslav region. Between 2005 and 2006 she worked as a founding Programme Director of United World College and International Baccalaureate Initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For this work Ms Torsti earned two international peace awards.
Erkki Tuomioja is a Member of the Finnish Parliament and the Chairman of the Grand Committee (EU affairs). He is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2000–2007) and Minister of Trade and Industry (1999–2000).
The event was organised by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) with the support of Kalevi Sorsa Foundation.