Young Rebels Who Do Not Want a Revolution: The Non-participatory Preferences of Fridays for Future Activists in Finland

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Young people’s lack of participation in elections has been taken as a sign that the young are wary of representative democracy and reject traditional authorities. Instead of election participation, it is expected that the young want more possibilities for direct involvement in political decision-making. Fridays for Future (FFF) is a global, youth-led climate movement that has been able to mobilize millions of young people around the world into political action (de Moor et al., 2020; Wahlström et al., 2019) in times when youth participation is generally declining, especially in traditional forms of political participation. While many have taken this as evidence that young people dismiss representative democracy in favor of a more participatory democracy, in-depth studies of their motivations are still lacking. This article helps fill this lacuna by providing a case study on Finnish FFF participants. Through semi-structured interviews and theory-guided content analysis with 15- to 20-year-old climate activists, the Finnish FFF participants’ attitudes toward political participation are examined. The data consists of 11 one-on-one in-depth theme interviews with young people, who participated in the FFF movement by attending at least one protest in Finland in 2019. The interviews focused on the following themes: motivation for participation in the FFF movement, interviewee’s background, and the participant’s ideas regarding politics, democracy, and political participation. The interviews were combined with material from various news sources to contextualize the information in the analysis phase. Based on the empirical evidence, I argue that although these young citizens have become politically active in a climate protest movement, it does not necessarily mean that they want major reforms to the representative democracy toward a more participatory system. Instead of more participatory possibilities, the Finnish climate activists want a better-functioning representative system with politicians who listen to their demands.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Political Science
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • youth participation
  • fridays for future
  • single-issue movements
  • political participation
  • qualitative methods


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