Losing Battles, but Winning the War: Business and Public Opinion in Cold War Finland, 1945–1990

Maiju Wuokko

This paper examines business’s efforts to influence public opinion in Finland and the United States in the Cold War era. During the Cold War decades, both Finnish and American business communities repeatedly experienced unfavorable attitude trends, which they fought with public relations campaigns targeted at the general public and politicians. This paper explores the reasons why business felt it necessary to influence public opinion, studies how these motivations evolved during the Cold War era, and looks for similarities and differences between Finland and the US. Throughout the period at hand, socialism and state intervention represented the biggest menace in the eyes of business leaders.

In both Finland and the US – and practically throughout the world – business’s ideas and interests came out of the Cold War as a winner, as pro-business, pro-market, pro-competition, anti-government, anti-regulation, and anti-welfare sentiment strengthened. The favorable development must be primarily credited to global and national social, political, and economic changes beyond the control of business. Nevertheless, Finnish and American business communities with their PR campaigns played the important role of a catalyst, both benefiting from and contributing to a shift that was taking place regardless of their efforts.

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