Research on Finnish Society (1:2008)

Defining legitimate taste in Finland: Does mother tongue matter?

Riie Heikkilä and Nina Kahma
Department of Social Policy
University of Helsinki

Finns are said to be homogenous when it comes to cultural taste. However, the division between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority is often considered significant. Previous study shows that the Swedish-speakers are statistically better-off when it comes to issues such as income and health. The stereotype of the Swedish-speakers is that in cultural consumption they represent upper-class taste. Most contemporary theory claims that the notion of legitimacy itself is changing. The paper examines ideas of legitimate taste brought up in twenty focus groups. We shall compare the linguistic groups and form a picture of what type of culture is considered legitimate by which group. In the end we aim to answer the question of what legitimate taste in the Finnish context means. The paper is based on a focus group study that serves as a pilot research for the project Cultural Capital and Social Differentiation in Contemporary Finland.

Key words: cultural taste; legitimacy; linguistic groups; focus groups.