Rätt, makt och institutionell förändring: En kritisk analys av myndigheters samverkan i barnahus

Translated title of the contribution: Law, power and institutional change: A critical analysis of public agencies' collaboration in Barnahus

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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The overarching objective of the dissertation is to study inter-organisational collaboration processes and their associated consequences in a critical manner, with particular emphasis on the importance of law and power.

The analysis of the empirical material, reflecting collaboration in the context of Barnahus on six locations in Sweden (collaboration under one roof regarding investigations of suspected crimes against children), has been undertaken in two stages: an initial empirical analysis and a second theoretically grounded re-analysis. Different theoretical perspectives, research methods as well as various empirical materials have been combined in the re-analysis, in order to achieve an in-depth and composite understanding of collaboration that elucidates its complexity and different dimensions. To this end, I have developed and applied a theoretical grounded analytical model in my study, which combines institutional perspectives with perspectives and concepts from the sociology of law and from theories of power that together illustrate different levels and dimensions.

The analysis shows that the institutionalisation processes include both patterns and variations, i.e., both homogenising and differentiating processes, at different levels, among different Barnahus operations, organisations and collaborative actors. Content and results of collaboration become dependent on the negotiations and power games that emerge among the collaborative actors based on their respective institutional logics. In relation to the collaboration in Barnahus, the tension between the criminal law oriented and the treatment oriented logics comprises the most central one. The analysis has shown how the criminal law logic has gained the priority right of interpretation at the expense of the treatment logic, and also how those collaborative actors, who, in institutional terms, are a part of the treatment logic, have, to a greater extent, adopted a criminal law oriented logic because of their collaboration in Barnahus than vice versa. I have thus noted a general process of juridification, as an institutional change resulting from collaboration, which includes a norm and responsibility shift away from a treatment logic and towards a criminal law logic, which also entails a substantive focus on what has been (ex post) rather than on what will follow (ex ante). More specifically, this implies a focusing on the suspected crimes committed, rather than on investigation of needs and how the children and the families’ future situation can be improved through support and treatment measures. Therefore, in the light of the analysis, there is a risk that the holistic perspective, which based on the collaborative idea is expected to grow actually in practice will diminish through collaboration.

The analysis has cast light on how law becomes part of power and vice versa, and that the forms of power that are actualised in the collaboration assume both clear and diffuse guises that are shaped in an interplay between structure- and actor-oriented power. In the light of the fact that law in a collaborative context contributes to tensions, normative conflicts and dilemmas for the collaborative practice, it also contributes to an uncertainty that characterises the interaction processes and the negotiations that take shape. In negotiations and interaction the law is interpreted according to different logics and acquires its content depending on the forms of power that are actualised and realised in collaboration.
Translated title of the contributionLaw, power and institutional change: A critical analysis of public agencies' collaboration in Barnahus
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology of Law
  • Åström, Karsten, Supervisor
  • Rejmer, Annika, Supervisor
Award date2011 Apr 15
ISBN (Print)978-917473-101-9
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2011-04-15
Time: 10:15
Place: Universitetshuset sal 206, Paradisgatan 2, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Johansson, Roine
Title: professor
Affiliation: Mittuniversitetet

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society

Free keywords

  • institutional change
  • child protection
  • social welfare investigations
  • crime investigations
  • treatment logic
  • criminal law logic
  • juridification
  • power
  • institutional theory
  • sociology of law
  • collaboration
  • coordination


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