New time of civic activity in rural areas? A new perspective on re-organization of services in Finland
Karelian Institute University of Joensuu Joensuu, Finland
Finland is a very sparsely populated; most local authorities have a low number of residents and distances are long. At the moment there is a process of municipal mergers and a project of restructuring local government and services going on in Finland. The aim of these processes is f. ex. to increase the viability and effectiveness of municipalities, and to ensure high-quality services. Although services are supposed to be better, resistance to the mergers has been arisen among rural citizens. What happens when community is going to close down local services like schools, village shops, and post offices, in rural areas? Does rural people's activity increase and how? Who is activating, who is activated? What is the motivating force? What is the meaning of sentimental reasons and emotions? Is there a fear of losing identity? What about regionalism and collective identity?
Media has a strong influence to public opinion and it may increase/decrease the involvement in rural activism. In my paper I will focus on discussion about municipal mergers and restructuring local services from the point of civic activism and democracy in newspapers. Data includes more than 1000 articles about five (both implemented and un-implemented) municipal mergers in Eastern Finland. I examine and analyze public discussion about mergers and restructuring of rural services in the theoretical frame of rural protest and social movements.