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university of tampere: faculty of social sciences: research: tcups - tampere research group for cultural and political sociology: research projects:
Faculty of Social SciencesTCuPS School of Social Sciences and Humanities University of Tampere
TCuPS - Tampere Research Group for Cultural and Political Sociology

Site of research: Department of Social Research, University of Tampere

Project director: Professor Pertti Alasuutari

Sponsor: Academy of Finland

Duration of the project: 2006-2009


MA. Marjaana Rautalin 1/2006-

M.Sci Antti Tietäväinen 1/2006-

PhD Ari Rasimus 4/2007-12/2007

The objectives and a brief description of the project

In order to shed more light on the forms and dynamics of the interaction between nation states and international organizations in the current era of increasing interdependence of countries throughout the globe, this research project studies the role of the OECD in affecting global social change. The project is comprised of case studies of OECD projects and their links with and impact on one member country, Finland. The cases are selected in such a way that they cover different aspects of the functions of the OECD and highlight different ways in which the OECD has appeared in the Finnish public sphere. The OECD programmes analyzed are (1) the Public Management (PUMA) Programme, (2) the Regulatory Reform Programme, (3) the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), (4) the Jobs Study, (5) Taxation Policy, and (6) the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). Every case study has its own specific questions or hypotheses, but in each case we also ask how the topic was brought to the agenda of OECD activities, how the OECD programme was organized, and how the programme was used in Finland, thus affecting legislation and social and cultural change. On the basis of these case studies highlighting different ways in which the OECD figures at the national and international levels, we can form a more universal model of the types of influence that international organizations have on global social change.

The data consist of the OECD publications, unpublished documents related to the cases acquired from the OECD Centre for Documentation & Information and from the OECD Archives Section, preambles of reforms in Finnish legislation related to the OECD programmes, media coverage of the programmes and the related reforms in Finland, and qualitative interviews of OECD officials and key people related to the programmes in Finland.

Michel Foucault's ‘governmentality framework' will be used as the theoretical frame of reference. Within it, we analyze whether the role of the OECD is due to its ability to affect the frameworks and discourses within which national economies and economic and social policies are perceived and assessed, including the criteria by which the OECD countries are compared with each other. In this continuously ongoing process, including different subject positions from OECD civil servants all the way to voters, political parties and non-governmental organizations, dominant discourses are materialized in organizational forms, which in turn give rise to new discourses and forms of knowledge, thus directing the path-dependent trajectory that advanced industrialized countries follow.

There will be several research methods used in the project, but in a general sense they are informed by Foucault's framework. The empirical materials are used as information about the situation in which recommendations or policies are made, which is done by making an inventory of the discursive field in terms of which actors perceive the situation. Secondly, public documents related to the cases are treated as interventions, which may reframe the situation and create new forms of knowledge and, especially in the case of legal documents or international agreements, change existing practices and thus give rise to changes in forms of subjectivity.

Descriptions of the case studies

The case study on MAI and The Policy Framework for Investment

The OECD is a 30-country organisation of mostly Western, post-industrialised nations, which has committed to promote free-market economy. Within the OECD the member countries have tried to remove barriers to foreign investment by establishing binding disciplines about liberalisation of capital movements, applying peer pressure, and by less evident means such as establishing the measures used in gathering comparative statistical information.

However, the OECD investment policy has also other face. In 1976 the organisation adopted Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are recommendations providing voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct for multinational corporations operating in or from member countries. The OECD has stressed social issues more after failed negotiations about the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in 1998. The MAI’s purpose was to develop multilateral rules for international investment, but in public discussion it was seen to accelerate the "race to the bottom" in environmental and labour standards. After the negotiations the OECD adopted a more open communications strategy, and a director of public affairs and communications was appointed.
OECD Watch, a body governing co-operation with NGOs promoting corporate accountability, was founded. The member countries have agreed to establish National Contact Points, government offices encouraging responsible business conduct and observing accountability of corporations. The Policy Framework for Investment, the new OECD investment tool, is said to support steady economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

In his PhD thesis MSSc. Antti Tietäväinen analyses social or inclusive liberalism the OECD is promoting with NGOs and other civil society organisations. The questions posed in the study are among other things, is market liberalism complemented with social issues in a way by which OECD can create a world culture that will be adopted also outside the OECD area? What kind conflicts projects dedicated to social liberalism contain?

The case study on PISA

In her PhD thesis MA. Marjaana Rautalin explores the mechanisms by which the knowledge production of the OECD, and more specifically, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), becomes integrated with the process in which Finnish education policy takes its shape. This is done by analyzing the uses of PISA by different political actors in Finland. The main question posed to the data is, how do different actors actively invoke the OECD and PISA when justifying the decisions made or to be made in Finnish education.  By conducting case studies on the uses of the OECD PISA Study at the national level, Rautalin also aims to make a contribution to the wider theoretical discussion about the role of the IGOs in formation of national policies. Theories, methods and concepts applied in the thesis are the world polity theory, governmentality framework, domestication approach, harmonization theory, discourse and rhetorical analysis.  As data Rautalin uses interviews conducted with officials working in Finnish central government, bulletins and reports published by the central government, editorials published in the trade union magazine representing the views of Finnish teachers’ profession, governmental bills, legislative initiatives made by individual members of parliament, reports and statements from various parliamentary committees, as well as national newspaper articles discussing PISA in the context of Finnish education.

Publications published within the project

Alasuutari, P. (2005). The governmentality of consultancy and competition: The influence of the OECD. The 37th World Congress of the International Institute of Sociology. Stockholm.

Alasuutari, P. and M. Lampinen (2006). OECD ja suomalaisen projektiyhteiskunnan synty. Projektiyhteiskunnan kääntöpuolia. K. Rantala and P. Sulkunen. Helsinki, Gaudeamus: 56-68.

Alasuutari, P. and A. Rasimus (2009). "Use of the OECD in justifying policy reforms: the case of Finland." Journal of Power 2(1), April 2009: 89-109.

Rasimus, A. and P. Alasuutari (forthcoming). OECD ja Suomen julkisen sektorin muutos. Kansalaiset terveyspalveluiden markkinoilla - asiakkuus, osallistuminen ja hyvinvointipalvelujen muutos. M. Koivusalo, E. Ollila and A. Alanko. Helsinki, Stakes.

Rautalin, M. and P. Alasuutari (2007). "The curse of success: The impact of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment on the discourses of the teaching profession in Finland." European Educational Research Journal 6(4): 348-363.

Tietäväinen, A. (forthcoming). Pakottavasta talouspuheesta moraaliseen vastuullistamiseen. OECD:n investointiohjelmat ja poliittisen hallinnan muutos. Hallintavalta. J. Kaisto and M. Pyykkönen, Gaudeamus.

Tietäväinen, A., M. Pyykkönen, et al. (2008). "Globalization and Power: Governmentalization of Europe? An Interview with William Walters by Antti Tietäväinen, Miikka Pyykkönen, Jani Kaisto " Foucault Studies 5.

Events organised within the project

Research Stream (RS 6) on Global Governance in European Sociological Association 8th Conference, Glasgow, 3-6th September 2007, Conference Theme - ‘Conflict, Citizenship and Civil Society'. Stream convenors: Marjaana Rautalin, Antti Tietäväinen and Pertti Alasuutari

POWER: Forms, Dynamics, and Consequences - An International Conference, Tampere, Finland, 22-24th September 2008. Organizing committee: Pertti Alasuutari, Risto Heiskala and Helena Leino.

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