Caroline Sutton on Swedish Alcohol Discourse

This was one of my favourite disputations in the role of Discussant, held on 6 June 1998. Her Dissertation advisor was Tom R. Burns. Caroline Sutton now lives and works in Norway in a publishing company she co-founded called Co-Action Publishing.

Swedish alcohol discourse : Constructions of a social problem

Sutton, Caroline

1998 (English)

Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)

Abstract [en]

In this dissertation it is argued that alcohol problems in Sweden are not strictly an objective phenomenon, but are largely discursive constructions that have been reconfigured in substantial ways since at least 1910. The empirical work aims to identify and discuss these reconfigurations. Additionally, a number of consistent features in the ways in which alcohol problems 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 social actors, 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” phenomenon.

Analysis follows a social constructivist approach, recognizing the potential for multiple interpretations of the problem, which are located in formal collective statements. Six major concepts 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 related studies. The first study examines medical discourse on alcoholism viewed as disease. A second study considers the application and adoption of the “total consumption model” and public health approach to alcohol in Sweden within official and scientific discourse.

Finally, the author investigates current shifts in these formations within the context of negotiations with the European Union on Sweden’s membership; the study explores the impact of a new discourse, originating externally, upon the legitimacy of Swedish approaches. The dissertation ends with several considerations of the implications of the research both for future developments of the public alcohol discourse in Sweden and for further development of the theoretical framework presented in the dissertation.

Place, publisher, year, pages

Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1998. 184 p.


Studia Sociologica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0585-5551 ; 45

Keyword [en]

Sociology, Alcohol, Social problems, Social construction, Sweden, Medicalization, Total consumption, Public Health, Discourse

Keyword [sv]


National Category


Research subject



urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-181 (URN)

91-554-4210-2 (ISBN) (OAI)

diva2:161399 (DiVA)

Public defence

1998-06-06, Room IX, University Building, Uppsala, Uppsala, 14:15

She did her undergraduate degree at San Diego, University of California, which explains much, as the Department is where Joseph Gusfield was active. Jack Douglas and Aaron Cicourel, both now UCSD emeritus faculty were also professors there.

Caroline Sutton holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Following earlier research work Caroline found her way into the publishing sector. Her early career in publishing was built with Taylor & Francis (Informa) where she worked as an Editorial Manager and later Publisher, along with serving on the Scandinavian management team. In 2007 Caroline co-founded Co-Action Publishing AB together with two colleagues. Co-Action Publishing AB is an independent Open Access scholarly publishing house, based in Scandinavia with a growing portfolio spanning different scholarly disciplines. At Co-Action Publishing she is involved in publishing, marketing, communications and business development. In addition to her primary work, Caroline serves as the current President of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), is a member of the SPARC Europe Board and the Steering Group for the Swedish National Library’s programme. Earlier she served on the board of Lund University Library and the Advisory Group for Linköping University Press. Caroline is a participant on the debate on Open Access and a regular contributor to discussions and meetings. She maintains an international network across the publishing and library communities, and regularly speaks on various aspects of open access publishing. Through Co-Action Publishing she has also worked on several projects; among others, a project with Peter Suber, a leading figure within the Open Access movement, to document societies transitioning to Open Access models for their journals; and developed the Best Practices Guide to OA Journal Publishing together with Lund University Libraries Main Office (
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