Populism has often been understood as a description of political parties and politicians, who have been labelled either populist or not. This dissertation argues that it is more useful to conceive of populism in action: as something that is done rather than something that is. I propose that the populist toolkit is a collection of cultural practices, which politicians and
citizens use to make sense of and do politics, by claiming that ‘the people’ are opposed by a corrupt elite – a powerful claim in contemporary politics, both in Finland and internationally. The concept of the populist toolkit has analytical utility, since it can separate a set of populist repertoires from others, for example that of exclusionary nationalism, and takes seriously
the effect culture has on action, while avoiding cultural determinism. I study four instances in which the populist toolkit was used in Finnish politics from 2007 to 2016. As data, I use party publications, a Voting Advice Application, newspaper articles and opinion pieces, and a large set of online media data. Methodologically, I employ qualitative text analysis informed by theories of populism, cultural practices, frame analysis and Laurent Thévenot’s sociology of engagements, as well as topic modeling. Article I argues that the state of the Eurozone in 2011 gave the Finns Party an opportunity to frame the situation as a crisis for Finland and to
present itself as a righteous populist challenger to established parties. Article II shows that the Finns Party uses anti-feminist arguments to present itself as a populist alternative. Article III presents a theory of how populist argumentation can use familiar emotional experiences in bonding ‘the people’ together. Article IV tackles the populist epistemology: while populism
can be critical of intellectuals and experts in general, the article shows that another populist strategy is counterknowledge, incorporating alternative knowledge authorities. This strategy is particularly employed by the populist radical right. After the monumental success of right-wing populism in Western democracies, the next big question is whether left-wing or liberal actors will take up the tools of populism, or will they rather position themselves on the side of pluralism, democratic institutions and scientific expertise. This will have to be assessed by future studies.