The Legitimacy of Conscription in Democracy Connections between Conscription Politics and Public Opinion in Parliamentary Debates in Finland and Sweden in the 2010s

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Miina Kaarkoski
Teemu Häkkinen


Conscription is a political institution that may socialize individuals to acquire such values as a sense of patriotism and duty toward state. In democratic countries, public support for conscription is vital. In this article we study the effects of public opinion on Swedish and Finnish politics from 2008 to 2010 and from 2017 to 2021. Based on an analysis of political language, we argue that the use of such language is central to seeking legitimacy for controversial issues. To that end, political discussions and interpretations of public opinion are central ways of creating and legitimizing policy. By conducting a qualitative, conceptual, and contextual analysis of digitized parliamentary documents in Sweden and Finland, this article suggests that in both countries political elites have spoken about public opinion to support the crafting of defense policy, particularly when speaking about the necessity to reform conscription so as to maintain citizens’ engagement with defense and their acceptance of conscription as a core institution of national defense.

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Author Biographies

Miina Kaarkoski, Finnish National Defense University

Miina Kaarkoski is a postdoctoral researcher at the Finnish National Defense University in Helsinki. Her research interests include defense and security politics, political decision making, and public opinion of
national defense. She coedited Maanpuolustustahto suomessa (Willingness to Defend in Finland, 2020) with Teemu Häkkinen and Jouni Tilli. Currently, she is studying the influence of information on public opinion and agenda setting on social media.

Teemu Häkkinen, University of Jyväskylä

Teemu Häkkinen is adjunct professor in the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His primary areas of research include parliamentary history, conceptual history, and the history of foreign-and defense-policy decision making in the Finnish, Swedish, and British contexts. Most recently, he has conducted research on defense-related public attitudes as well as on the legitimacy of the United Nations. Häkkinen has published in journals such as Parliaments, Estates and Representation, Contributions to the History of Concepts, European Review of History/Revue européenne d'histoire, Journal of European Integration History, and Parliamentary History.