Browsing by Subject "social and Public Policy"

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  • Karhunmaa, Kamilla (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    In this dissertation, I examine how societal debates on energy policy and the necessity of energy transitions unfold in Finland. Transforming energy systems is acknowledged as one of the most important areas for action on climate change and numerous voices across the globe have called for radical shifts in current energy policies and practices. Simultaneously, discussions on energy policy revolve around futures – both expected and feared – and the measures required to attain them. Finland is an interesting context to study claims about change and transitions as it has both commitments to action on climate change as well as stable institutional structures that have been described as resistant to change. My perspective on energy policy and governance is broad and I analyse various arenas where energy issues are debated. These include the Finnish Parliament and Helsinki City Council, the media and discussions amongst various actors attempting to influence energy policy and working at the science-policy interface. In my analysis, I show how Finnish energy policy actors are broadly committed to a sociotechnical imaginary of carbon neutrality, or a collectively held and publicly performed vision of a desirable future. In the imaginary, Finland is envisioned as a prosperous welfare society that has addressed climate change by attaining a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and removals. The imaginary of carbon neutrality is broad and interpretatively flexible, thus accommodating diverse views on what carbon neutrality can entail. In the articles that comprise this dissertation, I engage with a wide range of literature from science and technology studies, sociotechnical transitions studies, social scientific studies on energy, institutional theory and analyses on science-society relations. Specifically in the thesis summary, I address a research gap within the literature on sociotechnical imaginaries, by examining how questions regarding scale, heterogeneity and mobility shape the co-production of imaginaries as well as enable and curtail the scope of agency. I build on a constructivist and interpretative approach to research and use a range of materials, such as interviews, documents, news articles, Parliamentary and City Council transcripts, press releases and participant observation. Empirically, I focus on the 2010s as the decade when a sociotechnical imaginary of carbon neutrality emerged and became consolidated in Finland. In this thesis, I argue that sociotechnical imaginaries, in this case carbon neutrality, form the imaginative foundations of national policy debates that motivate and justify action, while simultaneously retaining space for negotiation on how to attain those futures. The empirical analysis demonstrates that there is no overarching consensus in Finland over what carbon neutrality means and what practices it allows for. I demonstrate that the context where an imaginary is co-produced both enables and constrains the scope of possible political debate and action by requiring actors to formulate their views through interpretations of desirable pathways towards carbon neutrality. I conclude that carbon neutrality is likely to persist as a widely shared sociotechnical imaginary in Finland due to the political possibilities for debate and compromise that it offers. At the same time, I propose that the concept of carbon neutrality will be increasingly challenged by questioning whose imaginary is it, what type of practices does it enable and how are different actions evaluated as carbon neutral. Likewise new concepts, such as climate emergency, are likely to challenge the imaginary of carbon neutrality. I conclude that such debates are both necessary and desirable as we collectively face, address and learn to live with climate change.
  • Sa, Haoxuan (Helsingin yliopisto, 2022)
    In China, the past few decades have witnessed institutional and legislative transitions that have profoundly reshaped land relations in the country. Urban-centred growth goals and policies have created space for local states to accumulate revenue from land leasing and associated large-scale real estate construction, while the so-called urban villages, located in former agricultural land now swallowed by urbanization, have become the targets for land requisition for the urban developments. As a key group of actors analyzed in this doctoral dissertation, the village collectives and native villagers have also been involved in land development, typically via a cooperative shareholding system. Meanwhile, rural migrants have relocated to cities as flexible laborers, and millions of them have settled in the urban villages, offering them affordable but continually threatened settlements. Thus, the land requisitions and redevelopments in urban villages have had effects on both the de jure owners of rural land, which are village collectives, and the de facto residents, the rural migrants. In this dissertation, I have focused on these two “urbanized” actor groups by analyzing their responses to land-related institutional, economic and social transformations in the Chinese urban context. Framed by urban studies literature, in general, and debates in urban economics on land property rights, in particular, the dissertation analyzes local mechanisms as well as direct and indirect consequences of this governmentally-sanctioned land and real estate investment boom. The objective is to expand knowledge on the economic, social and cultural aspects of urban change in contemporary China, with particular attention paid to the political-economic processes and culturally-embedded collective values involved in land-related actions, and decisions by actors such as original urban villagers’ shareholding companies or disadvantaged rural migrants living in urban villages. In particular, the dissertation contributes to debates in urban economics in which many neoclassical and neo-institutionalist scholars have equated collective landownership with ambiguous property rights and seen it as the barrier for efficient land development in the market-socialist China. Instead, this dissertation draws from the “original” institutional economics (influenced by Polanyi and Haila, among other scholars) and argues that economic activities and associated land relations are always embedded in the wider society and its power relations. Through real-world empirical investigations of five urban villages in Chaoyang, north-eastern China, and Xiamen, south-eastern China, the thesis questions the simplicity of the axiomatic thinking that discards, a priori, the collective land ownership and arrangements as inefficient and conflictual. In this dissertation, the following research questions are explored: What are the economic and social consequences of the land-related institutional changes that have occurred in the post-Mao era China? How have different actors associated with urban villages, including the village collectives and original villagers who have started developing their remaining land, and rural migrants (without local hukou), reacted to the economic, institutional and social transformations, specifically land and housing reforms? To answer these two questions, this thesis consists of four publications, each adopting an agency- and culturally-sensitized case study approach. Article I is a discussion on ambiguous land property rights in the context of Xiamen’s Lin Village, and its original villagers’ project of developing a shopping mall. In this article, I address the question “do ambiguous property rights matter in land development,” and end up in criticizing the aforementioned axiomatic conception according to which a clearly defined private property rights system is the prerequisite for transformative and economically successful urban development. In Article II on Chaoyang’s Xiaojia urban village, the theoretical focus is on the concept of property mind and its cultural and social embeddedness. I analyze decisions and motivations related to how the previous peasants became housing real estate developers, influenced by a series of legal and institutional changes with effects on their collectively owned landed property. Turning to Chaoyang’s urban village of Mengke as an instance of how the theories of neoclassical urban economics and new institutional economics tend to mischaracterize collectively owned enterprises, Article III casts light on how the villagers’ shareholding cooperative system has helped them to resist external threats such as land loss, and to maintain the collective’s identity. In the final Article IV, utilizing Henri Lefebvre’s (1974/1991) theorization of the conceived, practiced and lived aspects of the production of space, the focus is rather on the de facto residents—rural migrants who have chosen to live in Xiamen’s urban villages of An’dou and Caitang, and analyzing their everyday practices, valuations and life expectations. In the first three articles, the results point towards several conclusions, including: 1) markets are not independent, they are conditioned by the institutional context; 2) property rights are social relations and constructed socially and institutionally; 3) a private property rights system is not a prerequisite for transformative urban development irrespective of context; 4) the collective value logic offers an alternative to the private, exclusionary model of urban development; 5) collective economic activities do not simply seek the maximization of profits; and 6) a collective economic organization based on common properties can contribute to maintaining the identity of the collective. In the final article, it is shown that 7) the Chinese rural migrants’ urban lives are conditioned by programmatic rationales of market-socialist China, yet not monocausally but through their own agency, culturally-embedded social networks and choices concerning housing, work, and consumption. Taken together, the dissertation’s case studies demonstrate that 8) the land, real estate and housing policy related institutional changes have not only reshaped the physical urban landscape, but also played a key role in restructuring the social and economic relations among Chinese people. During the urban-centred transitions in the market-socialist China, 9) the land-related fates of the two urbanized actor groups (the original villagers vs. rural migrants) analyzed in this dissertation have been mutually dependent but highly diverging in socio-economic terms.