Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Is the Swedish welfare state a social disaster permeated by crime?

The Swedish police force appears on our television screens, year in and year out. The socially critical police narratives in novels and films have a tremendous impact.

But have the fictional police affected real-life public opinion and political decisions? This is one of the issues investigated by film studies scholar Michael Tapper in his thesis The cop in the twilight land: Swedish police narratives in novels and films 1965-2010.

Aiming a magnifying glass at the bestsellers within the Swedish crime genre in both novels and films, Michael Tapper maps their development from Sjöwall-Wahlöö to Stieg Larsson. His work is a history of Swedish ideas and culture in the years from 1965 to 2010, dealing with the social debate, views on criminality, the role of the police and masculinity.

Popular Swedish police films have persistently presented a TV picture of a Sweden in which the welfare state was rotten to the core and barely concealed a brutal class structure and rampant crime.

“For years, criminologists have tried to give a more subtle image of violent crime and to tone down the threatening representations of an invading Eastern European mafia, but crime journalism, populist politicians of various ideological persuasions and crime literature thrive on an alarmist outlook. A black and white world view with good pitched against evil, us against them, is also something we have all learned from fairy tales. This is why we are receptive to such stories.”

Regardless of whether the social criticism has come from the right or from the left, the disaster scenario has been remarkably similar. Sjöwall and Wahlöö were Marxist-Leninist, and their series of novels, The Story of a Crime, became germinal for an entire generation of authors. They saw their novels as contemporary documentaries, and wanted to show through their writing how social democracy betrayed socialism and strived towards a social-fascist dictatorship. This suited their view of history, according to which capitalist society inevitably tends towards increased inequalities of class and more pronounced antagonism, resulting inevitably in a communist revolution.

After them, the tradition in crime novels developed along two main lines. For authors such as Olov Svedelid and Henning Mankell and in detective series such as those featuring Beck, Johan Falk and Wallander, the police constitute the citizen’s defence against the threat of invasion from well-organised international crime. Leif GW Persson, Jan Guillou and Stieg Larsson, on the other hand, are examples of authors who perceive that a greater threat comes from extreme rightwing and anti-democratic forces within the police and intelligence services.

Similarly, police officers have been portrayed in two ways. Either they were a symptom of the country’s diseased condition, themselves affected by stress, ulcers, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism and chronic depression (Martin Beck, Kurt Wallander, Ewert Grens) or on the contrary, they were on a par with the over-performing superheroes of our time, as society’s last stand against criminal barbarity (Carl Hamilton, Johan Falk).

Unlike earlier interpretations, Michael Tapper’s study sees the Swedish crime novel and film as a part of – and not separate from – the international development of the genre. It is also one of the explanations for the worldwide success of the Swedish crime novel – the combination of a new location (Sweden) and partly new themes for stories that are basically very familiar.

For more information contact Michael Tapper +46 46-137914 or

Megan Grindlay | idw
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>