När man talar om knark : Drogdebatt i svensk dagspress 1970-1999 Speaking of drugs : Drug debate in the Swedish press 1970-1999

by Törnqvist, Daniel

Abstract (Summary)

This thesis presents a study of the debate on drugs in the Swedish press from 1970 to 1999. Applying a social constructionist and critical discourse perspective, it aims to map out and analyze the discourse on drugs in a large number of Swedish newspapers. The main focus is on debate articles and editorials. The research questions are concerned with (1) how the drug problem has been articulated, and with (2) what the represen¬ta-tion¬al patterns found say about Swedish society, its social relations and social history on a higher level of abstraction. The practical analysis is oriented towards discerning (a) major themes, standpoints and controversies, (b) major views on people using drugs, and (c) major ideas about what should be done and how, within the drug discourse of Swedish media during three decades. Parts of the analyses are also devoted to finding out which actors have been influential in the debate on drugs, and what type of rhetoric has been employed. Results are presented in three chapters: one about the 1970s, one about the 1980s, and one about the 1990s. The drug problem is formulated, already during the 1970s, as a pressing and urgent problem in Swedish society. During the course of the two following decades, this fact is underlined more and more – even though an increasing amount of voices critical to this perspectives are raised towards the end of the 1990s. The threat is articulated during the 1970s as stemming from a faulty political system driving certain groups of people into helplessness drug abuse. During the 1980s and 1990s, however, impending liberalization of attitudes and legislation was increasingly constructed as the most imminent danger. The drug user was represented as a victim of social injustices during the seventies, but to an increasing extent – during the eighties and nineties – as belonging to certain youth groups who were perceived to be at risk of becoming drug abusers. When it comes to the measures prescribed, a steady development in the direction of increased repressiveness and tougher attitudes towards drugs and their users, is to be found over the course of the time period under study. The concluding discussion illustrates that the discourse on drugs is related to a number of other discourses to which it relates at various times, with various effects (a discourse of social critique, a legal discourse, a moral discourse, a discourse on youth and popular culture, and a discourse of Swedishness). The identified tendencies and discursive patterns are discussed in relation to the unique history of the temperance movement in Sweden, and analyzed with the help of John B. Thompson’s theory of media and ideology, Stanley Cohen’s theory on “folk devils and moral panics” and Kai T. Erikson’s idea about “boundary crises”. The main conclusion is that the drug debate is a vehicle through which such far reaching issues as those of morality, law and politics, national identity, the upbringing of youth and the future can be channeled.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; Social sciences; Sociology; drugs; debate; discourse analysis; media; press; newspapers; moral panics; Sweden; Sociology; sociologi


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.