Social stress – from “striking out” to “striking in”? The case of Norway

Leonardsen DLillehammer University College

This paper presents the history of crime prevention in Norway through three periods: 1945-60, 1960-80, and 1980-2015. The story discloses a development from an interventionist state focusing on direct control of the economic system (“fighting crime means fighting poverty”), via state interventions in the intersection between the economic and the socio-cultural system (“fighting crime means fighting urbanization and unemployment”), to direct interventions in the socio-cultural system (“fighting crime means implementing action plans based on social science recommendations”). This discloses a development from macro level to micro level interventions, focusing more on targeted action programs than on universal and structural measures.

While being a low-crime society, crime in Norway increased continually from the early 1960s until 2000, when the trend turned downwards (today, it is at the 1985 level). To the extent that crime is decreasing, the author warns against being blindfolded by crime figures. Has a lower crime rate come at the price of more mental problems? Have “striking out” problems (like theft) been replaced by “striking in” problems (like drug abuse)? Is retreatism the “functional equivalent” to rebellion (Merton)? This is a challenge to which criminologists should pay due attention.

Prof. of Sociology Dag Leonardsen
Lillehammer University College
Pb 952
2604 Lillehammer

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