Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Classical Liberalism in Finland in the Twentieth Century


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This paper explores aspects of liberal thought in Finnish history from the late 19th century up to recent times. Finland has been an independent republic since 1917 and during that time passed from relative poverty and political vulnerability and instability to being a stable and well-functioning western democracy. Throughout the 20th century flows a liberal heritage established in the previous century—this heritage is not least present in different political parties, which are the focus of this paper. It is noticeable that liberalism did not have the same kind of success and support as it did in the 19th century, when it also drew significant attention from academics, politicians, and writers. In the 20th century, liberalism was challenged much more broadly, and lost ground to other political movements more in tune with group politics. Liberalism was now on the defensive, but as an ideology, it endured and continued to inform the public discussion. One important factor affecting the history of liberalism in the 20th century was the advent of social liberalism and the following split between classical liberals and social liberals within the liberal parties in Finland.