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Symbols and emotions in Swedish crime policy discourse
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Criminology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4236-9773
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The general public has assumed an increasingly prominent position in crime policy discourse, both in Sweden and internationally. Nowadays crime policy initiatives often acknowledge and respond to the presumed concerns of the general public, for instance through the promise of safety. This thesis analyses how political parties encourage the public to engage emotionally in crime policy matters. Since public involvement is crucial in elections, the election campaigns of political parties have served as the empirical basis of my studies. The three articles included in the thesis together examine the election campaigns in Sweden from 2006 to 2018.

In this body of work, it is assumed that the emotional address of the political parties can be analysed by paying specific attention to the political use of symbols and the discursive organisation of emotions. The thesis illustrates how the welfare context influences the ways in which crime policy is communicated and legitimised in Sweden. Values and ideals associated with the welfare state and with the related notion of a ‘Nordic exceptionalism’ – such as equality, benevolence, social cohesion, trust and safety – permeate the Swedish crime policy discourse. By interpreting these values and ideals as a system of symbols, I stress the need to explore them in relation to the general public and with regards to the emotional appeal these symbols might have.

In my work, I emphasise variation and contradiction regarding emotional tones and I explore the norms circumscribing emotional expressions in crime policy discourse. I have treated emotions as being present in all political communication. This suggests that emotions are not only being encouraged in the ‘hot’ emotional climate, but also in the more emotionally restrained discourse and when politicians allude to the utility of political measures. The results point towards the need to distinguish between emotions and to the exploration of the relationship between them since different emotions are associated with their distinct consequences and they influence how we are encouraged to perceive and feel for different crime policy measures.

The thesis concludes that the political use of symbols and emotions should be understood as having a reassuring function. It is further suggested that symbols and emotions can be used politically both in order to limit and to promote change with regards to Swedish crime policy discourse.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Criminology, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 84
Series
Avhandlingsserie / Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, ISSN 1404-1820 ; 41
Keywords [en]
Crime policy, Sweden, symbols, emotions, Nordic exceptionalism, welfare state, elections, political parties
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Criminology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175319ISBN: 978-91-7797-871-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-872-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-175319DiVA, id: diva2:1362256
Public defence
2019-12-06, hörsal 8, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-11-13 Created: 2019-10-18 Last updated: 2019-11-14Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The role of symbolic politics in exceptional crime policy debate: a study of the 2014 Swedish general election
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The role of symbolic politics in exceptional crime policy debate: a study of the 2014 Swedish general election
2018 (English)In: Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, ISSN 1404-3858, E-ISSN 1651-2340, Vol. 19, no 1, p. 22-40Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Symbolic politics are often considered to be closely linked to an alarmist rhetoric, as well as to punitive crime policy initiatives. This article explores the symbolic dimension of the Swedish crime policy debate. Since Sweden is frequently depicted as an antithesis to punitive Anglophone societies, exploring symbolic politics in this setting might expand our understanding of what symbolic statements may consist of. The article analyses the electoral campaign preceding the Swedish general election of 2014, with the aim of identifying which symbolic statements occupy a central position in the debate through the use of a qualitative content analysis. This analysis reveals an ambiguous political rhetoric, comprising morally and emotionally charged condemnatory statements about getting tough on crime, as well as reformist and restrained references to expert knowledge and long-term solutions. On the one hand, these reformist statements strengthen the image of Swedish crime policy as being based on ideals such as rationality and humanity. On the other, they also serve to legitimize and obscure penal expansion.

Keywords
Elections, Sweden, symbolic politics, political parties, crime policy
National Category
Other Social Sciences
Research subject
Criminology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-158500 (URN)10.1080/14043858.2018.1452874 (DOI)
Available from: 2018-08-07 Created: 2018-08-07 Last updated: 2019-10-18Bibliographically approved
2. Den svenska tryggheten: En studie av en kriminalpolitisk symbol
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Den svenska tryggheten: En studie av en kriminalpolitisk symbol
2018 (Swedish)In: Sociologisk forskning, ISSN 0038-0342, Vol. 55, no 2-3, p. 179-202Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Public safety in Sweden. A study of a crime policy symbol

Public safety has become an increasingly important part of crime policy debates in the Western countries. In Sweden, the concepts of trygghet (safety) and its negative counterpart otrygghet (insecurity) are often used in discussions about public safety and fear of crime. In this article, I argue that in order to understand Swedish crime policy, the symbolic meaning of these concepts cannot be overlooked. The political debates on public safety preceding the general elections in 2006, 2010 and 2014 are analysed with reference to three political parties: the Social Democratic party, the Conservative Party (Moderaterna) and the Sweden Democrats. By analysing the concept of safety (trygghet) as a condensation symbol, with its imaginative potential stemming from the historically strong relation between safety and the welfare state, this article illustrates how political solutions within the crime policy field are depicted as benign and universal. The article further explores how the political usage of the concept of safety generates feelings of ”national pride” to the general public.

Keywords
Sweden, public safety, safety/insecurity, crime policy, symbols, Nordic exceptionalism
National Category
Other Social Sciences Sociology
Research subject
Criminology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-158502 (URN)
Available from: 2018-08-07 Created: 2018-08-07 Last updated: 2019-10-18Bibliographically approved
3. Emotional expressions in crime policy discourse: An exploration of the 2018 Moderate and Social Democratic election campaigns in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Emotional expressions in crime policy discourse: An exploration of the 2018 Moderate and Social Democratic election campaigns in Sweden
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the criminological tradition, the emotional tone of crime policy discourse has predominantly been understood by being contrasted with an assumed rational response to crime. However, there are also limits and norms that circumscribe this ‘emotional discourse’ and different emotions direct our perceptions in distinct ways. Drawing on sociological research on emotions, the present article illustrates how the emotions of worry, (dis)trust and anger are organised in the electoral campaigns of the Moderate Party and the Social Democratic Party in the 2018 Swedish general election. The article thereby aims to illustrate how the Swedish public is encouraged to engage emotionally in crime policy discourse. Lastly, the article addresses the question of the potential political effects associated with the parties’ use of emotions, pointing to the need to distinguish between different emotions as well as explore the relationship between them.

Keywords
Sweden, crime policy, elections, emotions, worry, trust, distrust, anger
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Criminology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175305 (URN)
Available from: 2019-10-18 Created: 2019-10-18 Last updated: 2019-10-20Bibliographically approved

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