The scalar logics of universities as part of statehood transformation in Finland, 1970–1990

  • Mikko Kohvakka South Karelia Institute, Lappeenranta University of Technology / Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, University of Eastern Finland
Keywords: universities, history, scale, scalar logics, state-building, qualitative textual analysis


In Finland, gradual state restructuring from a Nordic welfare state towards a more international competition state began in the mid-1980s. This transformation affected discourses and spatial ways of thinking about the primary scales of social action. As the strategies of the welfare-state regime emphasised major public investments for the development of infrastructure and equal opportunities across the country, the emerging competition state strategies put less stress on territorial and social equalisation processes and focused, instead, on economic growth through privatisation, specialisation and national and regional competitiveness. Universities took part in this process by instituting socio-political and political-economic practices that were differentially scaled.

This article aims to investigate the evolution of two Finnish universities, the University of Joensuu and the Lappeenranta University of Technology, and the role of these institutions in the state’s transformation and scale reconstruction in the 1970s and 1980s. The present analysis is based on the official statements and action plans of the examined universities, as well as individual interviews with their key administrators. The article concludes that the embedded scalar logics of both universities either fostered or hindered their respective abilities to adapt to the prevailing form of state space. It also suggests that the aforementioned universities were more than mere pawns in the transformation process. Indeed, these universities chose divergent symbolic and self-seeking strategies for promoting the scalar relations and state formation each preferred. In regards to these universities, then, the present article seeks to assess the tensions that arose between the processes connected to regional spaces and more deterritorialised practices.

Research Papers
May 4, 2015
How to Cite
Kohvakka, M. (2015). The scalar logics of universities as part of statehood transformation in Finland, 1970–1990. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 193(1), 117-133. Retrieved from