The Finnish national interest of promoting internationalisation

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Pinni B building, auditorium 1097, address: Kanslerinrinne 1.


Doctoral defence of MA. Kristiina Vihmalo

Kansainvälistymisen suomalainen intressi : Kansallinen etu Suomen elinkeinoelämän kansainvälistymistä koskevassa institutionaalisessa puheessa 1960-luvulta 2000-luvulle (The Finnish national interest of promoting internationalisation : National interest in institutional discourse concerning the internationalisation of Finnish business and industrial life from the 1960’s to the 21st century)

The field of science of the dissertation is Regional Studies.

The opponent is professor Sami Moisio (University of Helsinki). Professor Jouni Häkli acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

Finnish national interest of promoting internationalisation

The notion of internationalisation became a very popular concept in the discourses concerning the future of Finland and the national economic survival of the Finnish nation in the 1990’s. Since then internationality has been emphasized especially in the fields of education and work. In my doctoral thesis I study the institutional discourse related to the internationalisation of Finnish industrial and business life during a forty-year period 1963–2006 published by the Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry.

There are three recognisable themes which structure the discourse about the internationalisation of Finnish industrial and business life. These themes are partly temporally limited but also stratified and overlapping. The first theme which dominated the discourse of internationalisation between the 1960’s and the 1980’s is about foreign trade and particularly the importance of export for the Finnish national economy. The main aim of the Ministry of Trade and Industry was to increase the amount of export continuously. At the beginning of the 1990’s the discussion about the European integration began in the publications of the Ministry. In that discussion the major issue was whether Finland should join the European Union or not – in other words, which option would be the best one for Finnish companies and industry. At the turn of the millennium the concept of globalisation appeared in the discourse of the internationalisation of Finnish business life. The globalised world was regarded as a single, regionally interconnected space of economic activity and fierce international competition in which Finnish enterprises, industry and commerce had to survive.

Internationality was usually regarded with some fear and anxiety by the actors of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Internationality was seen as some kind of a threatening phenomenon and internationalisation was considered to be a necessary and inevitable process which the Finnish nation just had to go through. In spite of all the concerns and anxiety related to the changing international circumstances and internationalisation the actors of the Ministry thought that the process of internationalisation had to be promoted and accelerated constantly.

In the discourse of internationalisation published by the Ministry of Trade and Industry nationhood is constructed especially when describing Finland as a nation-state, the Finnish people as a nation and the national interest of Finland. Nationhood is explicitly constructed through expressions in which the personal pronoun “we” is used to refer to the Finnish nation as a territorial and collective actor, some kind of a “territorial us”. It is noteworthy that the motivation of the state government to intensify the process of internationalisation is always to advance the national interest of that “territorial us”. All the internationalisation must benefit Finland and the Finnish nation in some way. From the export of goods, for example, the Finnish nation has got income which has been very important for the small national economy of Finland. Furthermore, international technological cooperation has been expected to raise the level of know-how in Finland. What is also significant here is that the main features of the national interest have not been changing between the 1960’s and the 21st century. The major national objectives which have been aimed at by increasing international interaction have been the growth of the national economy, employment and the welfare of the Finnish nation.

The key conclusion of my research is that despite all the discourse of accelerating internationalisation and intensifying globalisation the nation-state and nationhood have been established as dominating social structures affecting the ways people understand the world spatially and socio-culturally. In this doctoral thesis my purpose is to reveal this nationalist thinking which has become unchallenged and naturalised way of making sense of the world.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2324, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1828, Tampere University Press 2017.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail:

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