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"En ohyra på samhällskroppen": Kriminalitet, kontroll och modernisering i Sverige och Sundsvallsdistriktet under 1800- och det tidiga 1900-talet
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Humanities.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5722-3190
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis presents an analysis of crime trends and social control during the dramatic transformation of Sweden's social landscape in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, set against the background of the modernization process in the country as a whole and the city of Sundsvall and environs in particular. What assumptions about crime were evident in public debate? How did crime levels vary from region to region, and what were the changes over time? What strategies did government and local authorities try for combating crime? Did the joint efforts by government, local communities, and the voluntary sector actually solve the problems that social change was believed to have caused?When it comes to theory, the interpretative framework is based on Anthony Giddens's argument about modernity and modernization, making particular use of a few central points about what the changes meant for the structuration of society. Giddens's ideas about changes in social control are refined with Michel Foucault's and David Garland's work on the increasingly disciplinary trend seen in the exercise of the law and public control. The analysis of modernity's ramifications for the transformation of both social structures and crime alike has also benefitted from Robert Putnam's and Travis Hirschi's insights into the importance of social capital and social bonds for a well-functioning, low-crime society.The process by which Sweden was transformed from an overwhelmingly agrarian country to an urban, industrial society left its mark on crime patterns. To the contemporary mind, industrialization, migration, and urbanization were the underlying causes of the high levels of serious crime in the society. The start of the nineteenth century had seen a rise in criminality, with both petty crime and lethal violence becoming more common. At the same time, there was a heated debate about the socio-economic problems that were such a strain on the structure of society. The analysis finds that there were large differences in prosecutions in the country and between cities. The Sundsvall area was among those that saw a dramatic change in crime in the course of becoming a major industrial region. At the same time, the thesis shows that there were plenty of cities in Sweden, however rapidly they grew, that had low crime rates. However, the widespread fear of industrialization, migration, and urbanization was often unfounded. For example, both lethal violence and public order offences reached their lowest recorded levels in the interwar period. By then, new cures were sought for the social and moral ills of society. The state's sphere of influence had expanded. New social reforms, including a modified crime policy, were launched. The state became even more assertive, and the same was true of civil society. Society would attend to the moral education of a number of different groups. Moral virtues were to be instilled in the workshy, alcoholic, or criminal, in order to produce disciplined and cultured citizens. The attention of social activists, the scientific community, civil servants, and local and national politicians shifted from crime per se to the far broader issue of asociality. Modernization gave the voluntary sector a significant role in the social organization of the day, shaping new forums for interpersonal relationships and strengthening social ties. The thesis makes the case that two distinct periods, each with its specific social structures and crime patterns, can be observed; one belonging to the nineteenth century, the other to the first four decades of the twentieth century.Finally, the similarities between the history of crime in Sweden and, for example, the US or the UK are highlighted. As in Britain and North America, the early industrialization period saw weakened social bonds, and a time of greater violence and disorder ensued. After a while however, the situation stabilized, and crime rates began to drop again. When industrial societies ceased to be 'frontier communities' at the forefront of modernization, and instead became more mature communities, crime levels fell as people's commitment to their communities was renewed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Höör: Symposion Brutus Östlings bokförlag, 2015. , 324 p.
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X
Keyword [en]
Criminality, crime policy, theft, violence, drunkenness, public order, police, social control, modernization, crime, social capital, migration, industrialization, urbanization, social bonds, civil society, popular movements, 19th century Sweden, 20th century Sweden, Sundsvall, social change, delinquency, asociality
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-24942ISBN: 978-91-87483-15-8OAI: diva2:812217
Public defence
2015-06-09, O102, Åkroken Holmgatan 10, Sundsvall, 13:15
Available from: 2015-05-18 Created: 2015-05-18 Last updated: 2015-06-18Bibliographically approved

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