Keynote Speakers

8th international Power Conference
Helsinki, November 24-26, 2022
Mark Haugaard, National University of Ireland, Galway

Location: Juhlasali, U33 (Unioninkatu 33)

Session chair: Professor Risto Heiskala, Tampere University

Democracy, authoritarianism and kleptocracy as ideal types of political power: A four-dimensional power approach

In this paper we will approach democracy, authoritarianism and kleptocracy as ideal types (in the Weberian sense) of the exercise power. Rather than a normative approach, we will look these three types of rule as representing different economies of political power. There are two sources of political power: coercion and authority. Kleptocracy corresponds to rule through coercion, while both authoritarianism and democracy constitute rule based upon authority. Authority is based upon a belief in legitimacy (Weber), which can be created in several ways, through the skilled exercise of the third- and fourth-dimension of power. With regard to the third-dimension, belief can be based upon techniques of reification (Truth claims), thus controlling discourse (authoritarianism); or belief can be based upon open discourse and fallibility (truth claims), which reveal whether or not power is positive sum and advantageous to the less powerful (democracy). Relative to the fourth-dimension, power can create docile bodies who accept their being-in-the-world as fate (authoritarianism and kleptocracy), or power can be used to create the kind of self-restraint necessary to see the self from the perspective of other, with regard to justice and political contests (democracy). The overall conclusion of the paper is that democracy is not simply the product of humanist norms; it also represents a highly efficient economy of power, when compared to kleptocracy and authoritarianism.

Mark Haugaard is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. He is the founder editor of the Journal of Political Power, published by Routledge. He has published extensively upon political power and his recent publications include: The Four Dimensions of Power: understanding domination, empowerment and democracy, 2020, Manchester University Press. ‘The four dimensions of power: conflict and democracy’, Journal of Political Power, 2021, 14:1: 153-175. ‘Reverse Versus Radical Discourse: A Qualified Critique of Butler and Foucault, with an Alternative Interactive Theorisation’, Global Society 2022, 36(3): 368-90.

Suvi Salmenniemi, University of Turku

Location: Juhlasali, U33 (Unioninkatu 33)

Session chair: Professor Pertti Alasuutari, Tampere University

The Affective Life of Power: Lessons from the Happiness Industry

This paper focuses on affect as a vital part of understanding operations of power. It traces affective experiences as well as ways in which affective attachments and investments are created and regulated in the happiness industry, covering a range of practices aimed at increasing happiness, wellbeing and self-actualisation. This industry constitutes a billion-dollar business worldwide and has centrally contributed to the commodification of affect in contemporary capitalism. Drawing on longstanding ethnographic fieldwork in the happiness industry in Finland, the paper highlights how power operates through affect. Affects are connected to what we can or cannot do, and hence to our capacity to act. Engaging with recent discussions of affect in feminist and cultural theory, the paper traces how affects are solicitated, performed, experienced, and disciplined in the practices of happiness industry. It also zooms on to materiality, that is, how bodies, spaces, and objects come together in the happiness industry to enable or foreclose particular affective attachments, relations, and responses. Although affect has been increasingly capitalized, instrumentalized, and commodified in contemporary capitalism, the paper shows that affect is not reducible to this logic, but is fundamentally unpredictable, unruly, and protean, producing unexpected encounters and effects. The paper highlights that engagements with the happiness industry can set in motion not only empowering and rewarding, but also painful, alienating, and disconcerting experiences.

Suvi Salmenniemi is professor of sociology at the University of Turku, Finland. Her areas of expertise include political sociology, therapeutic culture, utopian thought, cultural studies, feminist research, ethnography and critical social theory. She is PI of the project Political Imagination and Alternative Futures, funded by the Academy of Finland (2020-2024). She is the author of Affect, Alienation and Politics in Therapeutic Culture: Capitalism on the Skin (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) and the editor of Assembling Therapeutics: Cultures, Politics and Materiality (Routledge, 2020). Her work has been published in journals such as The Sociological Review, Sociology, International Sociology, Social Movement Studies, European Journal of Cultural Studies and The British Journal of Sociology.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi, New York University

Location: Juhlasali, U33 (Unioninkatu 33)

Session chair: Professor Eeva Luhtakallio, University of Helsinki

The Utopian Counterfactual: Excavating the Methodological Foundations of Emancipatory Social Science

This paper lays out the foundations of 'methodological utopianism' - that is, the social scientific pursuit of emancipatory goals. It considers the contradictions, limits, and possiblities of such a project by considering one particular contemporary approach (the "real utopias" project) and its antecedents in sociological theory, specifically the methodological utopianism of Perkins Gillman, Mariátegui, and DuBois.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi is a Brazilian-born activist and scholar based in New York City, where he directs NYU's Urban Democracy Lab.  Since his 2001 dissertation on Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting, his career has revolved around making sense of actually existing civil society and institutional arrangements to extend the reach of democratic decision-making. He publishes widely in disciplinary and public-facing outlets.   One of the founders of the Participatory Budgeting Project, he has also worked on immigrant rights and anti-militarism campaigns in the US, as well as the defense of democracy in his native Brazil.  Recently he has worked with housing justice organizations on people-driven alternatives to private housing provision.  With Jake Carlson he is author of the “Social Housing Development Authority,” a proposal to convert distressed real estate into permanently decommodified housing.  A sociologist by training, Gianpaolo's most recent book is We,The Sovereign  (Polity Press/ Radical Futures). 

Marielle Wijermars, University of Helsinki

Location: Juhlasali, U33 (Unioninkatu 33)

Session chair: Tuomas Forsberg, University of Helsinki

The power of platforms and infrastructures in digital authoritarianism

Authoritarian states, such as Russia and China, have used digital technologies to strengthen their regimes, for example through surveillance systems, online propaganda and censorship. Yet, the concentration of power in increasingly integrated digital infrastructures – a process known as “platformisation” – and the transnational dependencies this has given rise to, has also introduced novel weaknesses and constraints; especially for states who, unlike China, are not digitally autonomous. For example, foreign ownership of social media platforms may significantly hamper the capacity to implement online censorship. Drawing upon recent scholarship in Media and Communication Studies, this keynote argues that transnational dependencies and their geopolitical dimensions are key to understanding digital authoritarianism today. The talk takes Russia’s war against Ukraine as a case study for exposing the fault lines, instabilities and contestations resulting from platformisation and examines how the main actors involved (e.g., states, platform companies) negotiate them. Among others, it addresses the effects of the (tech) sanctions imposed on Russia and the withdrawal of Western tech firms from the Russian market on Russia’s capacity to engage in authoritarian practices. The talk thereby elucidates how both platform companies and autocratic regimes navigate the centrality of platforms in increasingly geopoliticised digital infrastructures at times of contention or conflict

Dr, Mariëlle Wijermars is a CORE Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Her research focuses on internet freedom and the human rights’ implications of internet policy and platform governance, in particular in authoritarian states. Drawing upon, e.g., Political Communication, International Relations and Media Studies, she studies how authoritarian governments seek to shape and control how information circulates in societies. Her research has appeared in, e.g., Post-Soviet Affairs, New Media & Society and Digital Journalism. She is the author of Memory Politics in Contemporary Russia: Television, Cinema and the State (Routledge, 2019) and co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Digital Russia Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) and Freedom of Expression in Russia’s New Mediasphere (Routledge, 2020).