"With their clothes in a bag" - Social exclusion and criminality in the welfare state

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Abstract: Noting an inattention to the actual individuals who are impacted by drug policy in the public discourse, this thesis was written to examine the Swedish civil service’s role in creating and maintaining social exclusion. It is a qualitative exploration of the processes of exclusion in a western welfare state and its effects on individuals. Drawing on interviews with four members of KRIS with a criminal background as well as a probation officer, I examine the similarities as well as the dissimilarities in their experiences. The focus is on how a notion of the “other” influences policy and how socioeconomic differences determine whether or not an individual will become subject to the criminal justice system. I found that social exclusion is not a process which begins in adolescence but rather, much earlier in an individual’s childhood. Furthermore, I found that the processes of social exclusion are the result of complex interaction between parental influence, school personnel, the criminal justice system and other aspects of the civil service. I argue that some individuals are put on the path to further exclusion and criminality already as school children as a result of stigmatizing treatment. While the research recognizes the ability of the Swedish welfare state to act as an agent of inclusion and to promote personal agency, I argue that a civil service built to shield the most vulnerable in society from the adverse effects of a market economy often ends up further excluding and harming the very individuals it was meant to protect.

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