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Katarina Jacobsson

Katarina Jacobsson

Prefekt | Professor | FD | Docent i sociologi

Katarina Jacobsson

Mutor och moral – motstridiga versioner i svenska rättsfall


  • Katarina Jacobsson

Summary, in English

High-profile bribery scandals that involve powerful people and large sums of money are often the object of general indignation and legal action. When it comes to bribery of the everyday kind, however, it is far less obvious which gifts should be seen as bribes, be it in a moral or legal sense. Legal cases of this kind almost always include voices that strive to refute accusations of bribery. This study sets out to investigate how the people involved construct and argue for their particular version.

Seven legal cases of bribery serve as a starting point. They are mainly cases of what would be called petty corruption. The material consists of retrospective interviews with the parties involved (people who reported the matter, policemen, prosecutors, people sentenced with bribery) as well as court records in each case.

When counteracting accusations of bribery, interviewee draw on culturally established knowledge of a ”real” bribe: it is given in secret, it consists of a large amount of money, it is supposed to generate favours, it is offered with an ulterior motive of favours, it involves a particular order (first bribery, then favours), and it attracts dishonest persons.

People who are found guilty of bribery present another picture. Assertions and proofs of one’s honest intentions and honourable character are put forward in elaborated accounts. Furthermore, one suggests reasons for ”how this could happen to me”, i.e. other people’s malice, bad luck or becoming the victim of a particularly zealous prosecutor. By illustrating their accounts with identifying as well as contrasting comparisons, the interviewees construct a version of events far from the one claimed by the prosecutor.

Not only the interviewees who were found guilty of bribery seem to be compelled to explain their actions, but also the prosecutors and those who reported the matter to the police. When cases are described as morally ambiguous the prosecutors refer to rules and laws, thus restricting their options to a minimum. Accounts of this sort imply a reification of the law and picture the judicial organisation as an unstoppable automatic machine processing its material until it is done.


  • Socialhögskolan






Research reports / Network for Research in Criminology and Deviant Behaviour at Lund University




[Publisher information missing]


  • Social Work


  • comparisons
  • rhetoric
  • neutralizing techniques
  • accounts
  • legal cases
  • bribery
  • prosecutor




  • ISSN: 1104-1153