Discretion in the “Backyard of Law”: Case Handling of Debt Relief in Sweden


  • Bengt Larsson Dept. of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg
  • Bengt Jacobsson Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg




This article explores discretion in welfare professional work. The aim is to analyse what room for discretionary decision-making that exist in case handling of debt relief at the Swedish Enforcement Authority (SEA). The analysis is guided by a conceptual distinction between structural and epistemic aspects of discretion, as well as between substantive and procedural aspects. The data comprises official and internal SEA documents, interviews with management and staff and field notes from observations. The analysis points to a change in the balance between standards and discretion in relation to the on-going formalization of case handling at the SEA, though not in the simplistic sense that discretion is diminished through formalization. When taking into account the different analytical aspects of discretion, it is concluded that discretion is narrowed only in some respects. There is still space for case officers in selecting and interpreting information and assess-ing the conditions regarding subject matter.


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How to Cite

Larsson, B., & Jacobsson, B. (2013). Discretion in the “Backyard of Law”: Case Handling of Debt Relief in Sweden. Professions and Professionalism, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.7577/pp.438