Political foreplay for nuclear new build - Defining good at the intersection of politics, economy and technology

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


This thesis examines the relationship of economy and society – politics whereby facts, ideologies and current ethical challenges are encountered – by investigating how the societal good is defined in political processes. I study the question in the context of the politics of nuclear energy by analysing the discursive production of the hegemonic definition of overall good, the procedural production of continuity of large-scale projects, and the wider societal effects of such processes. Contrary to many other industries, the nuclear power industry operates in an exceptionally regulatory environment and nuclear energy investments are heavily dependent on state support in a variety of ways. As a consequence, the nuclear industry requires wider societal acceptance, rationalization and legitimation. I build my analysis on the theoretical literature, which discusses the increasing economization of society and governance. My empirical work focuses on the political process of deciding on large-scale energy solutions in Finland, namely two new nuclear reactor units. The empirical analysis concentrates on the debate in Finland before, during, and after the decision of those nuclear new builds. The data was collected from 2007 to 2014 and includes policy documents, company documents, public discussions in the media, participant observation, and interviews. The analysis employs a discursive approach that focuses on how the process itself took its simultaneously sustaining and renewing form over the years, in terms of societally and morally appealing argumentation for legitimation, despite the organizationally and contextually changing circumstances. This study contributes to the understanding of relationships of economic activity and politics in the context of highly regulated and otherwise peculiar industries that still hold a crucial role in society. I argue that political decision-making, following the ethically ambitious legislation and governance, is leaning on an ideological background that partly clashes with the diversity of stakeholder interests, by not sufficiently taking all the interests into account in defining the overall good. Furthermore, I claim that the neoliberalized ideology and economized logic of politics are not only taking over but are also absorbing welfarist values in order to legitimize controversial decisions. Although nuclear power is an exceptional case in many ways, this analysis reveals many broader issues of the blurring boundaries of economy and society at a time of neoliberal ideology and politics, and the normative logic behind decision-making. The study also presents a novel understanding on the changing positioning of nuclear energy in contemporary society.
Translated title of the contributionYdinvoiman poliittinen esileikki – Hyvän määrittely politiikan, talouden ja teknologian risteyksessä
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Tienari, Janne, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7156-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • economization
  • economy
  • neoliberalism
  • nuclear power
  • politics
  • society
  • welfarism


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