The Social Contingency of Law : Studies of Social Control during Foreclosure in Sweden

Sammanfattning: This thesis empirically investigates how law and other social control responses during foreclosure in Sweden are contingent upon differences in social status. The thesis draws upon American sociologist Donald Black’s theoretical framework on social control to explain this social contingency. According to Black, variations in social control responses are explained and predicted by variations in the social structure pertaining to, for example, differences in wealth and relational distance between the stakeholders.The thesis consists of an introductory framework and four papers. Paper 1 employs register micro data from the Swedish Enforcement Authority (SEA) about foreclosure sale, and from Statistics Sweden about the foreclosure debtors, to explore how the socio-economic status of the debtors has changed from 2000 to 2014. Papers 2 and 3 employ the same type of data to explore different aspects of the behaviour of law: the relationship between lender–borrower relational distance and the quantity of law, and between borrower socio-economic status and the compensatory style of law, respectively. Paper 4 employs expert interviews with debt collection officers and managers to explore the relationship between how Swedish mortgage lenders organize and conduct debt collection measures aimed at delinquent borrowers, and the quantity of negotiation. The results in Papers 2–4 indicate that social control responses during foreclosure in Sweden are contingent upon differences in social status between the lender and the borrower.The thesis’ main contribution is that it provides empirical evidence of the socially contingent nature of law and other social control responses. This addresses one of the foundational debates within the sociology of law regarding the relationship between the instititutions of law and social control, on the one hand, and the organization of social relations and behaviour, on the other. Specifically, the thesis contributes with empirical applications of Donald Black’s theoretical framework using register and interview data, and an independent theory of negotiation during foreclosure in the Blackian paradigm. Furthermore,by demonstrating the relevance of Black for empirical studies of social control and for understanding the social contingency of law, the thesis aims to contribute to ongoing discussions within the sociology of law regarding the possibility of attaining positivistic yet critical knowledge about law-related phenomena. In conclusion, the implications of the social contingency of law for the SEA are discussed.