Swedish alcohol discourse : Constructions of a social problem

Sammanfattning: In this dissertation it is argued that alcohol problems in Sweden are not strictly an objectivephenomenon, but are largely discursive constructions that have been reconfigured in substantial ways since at least 1910. The empirical work aims to identify and discuss thesereconfigurations. Additionally, a number of consistent features in the ways in which alcoholproblems are defined is presented. Among other things, the Swedish case shows that definitions of the problem and models adopted to describe it, integrate a broad range of socialactors, and encourage consensus. Moreover, these models do not strictly focus on the problematic drinker; they offer scientific support for state intervention into the lives of all members of society. Together these characteristics construct alcohol problems as truly a "social" phenomeonon.Analysis follows a social constructivst approach, recognizing the potential for multipleinterpretations of the problem, which are located in formal collective statements. Six majorconcepts for investigating and analyzing alcohol as a "social problem" are developed: discourse, discursive formation, stories of causality and threat, the dispersion of the problem,the distribution of authority, and the solution complex. These are applied in three relatedstudies. The first study examines medical discourse on alcoholism viewed as disease. Asecond study considers the application and adoption of the "total consumption model" andpublic health approach to alcohol in Sweden within official and scientific discourse. Finally,the author investigates current shifts in these formations within the context of negotiationswith the European Union on Sweden's membership; the study explores the impact of a newdiscourse, originating externally, upon the legitimacy of Swedish approaches. The dissertation ends with several considerations of the implications of the research both for futuredevelopments of the public alcohol discourse in Sweden and for further development of thetheoretical framework presented in the dissertation.