Symbolic classification, social constructions and asylum.

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Symbolic classification is for example the political party pin on your jacket – a link to your own group. This symbolic classification doesn’t have to be political, or ideological, but something that unites a group – a “society”. However, it could be a political view or ideology, which results – as a group – in difference in moral and norms. Even if, or although, we live in a rather homogenic society, we might have some differences in the moral fibre between us. Therefore, just as Jacobsson & Löfmarck describes as an example, individual might have an different view of the depth on a transgression – if it even is considered to be a transgression from one perspective and not the other – like not paying your TV fee.

As Jacobsson & Löfmarck states, we are not “aware of our social constructions unless we go against the stream” (Jacobsson & Löfmarck, 2008, p. 206). Symbolic classification is of course not an exception of being socially constructed. Ideological views, such as either left or right extremism is a classification that makes you go “against the stream” and likely make you break – at least some – rules of conduct. For example, in Sweden we are rather social democratic with a large base of voters directly linked to that party, but also even the (center-)right wing is much more social democratic compared to what the right could look like, or base one’s ideology on in other countries, such as Denmark, the UK or the USA. The centre-left, or Social Democratic Party in Sweden might wasn’t a much higher tax rate then it’s substitutes in other national states in the west, and so does the centre-right, Moderate party compared to it’s international siblings. Evident of the Swedish right parties being much more central right (except the Sweden Democrats).

For example, we might see this being concretized currently in Sweden if we take a look on the immigration debate, or debate about asylum.1 Both the Social Democratic Party and the Moderate Party are deepening it’s politics regarding seekers of asylum – the number or immigrants in Sweden. They are both trying to get the upper hand of this crisis situation. Maybe not by the same means, but still as considering that more people are welcome and that we as, a nation, need to help out more. Now, this is still compared to other countries – at least that is the theoretical fundament, or hypothesis. But why is that? By drawing on Alexander and Jacobsson & Löfmarck this could be analyzed, or discussed, from the moral of a society. In Sweden we are more liberal and equal – both when it comes to gender and ethnicity – far from enough, and we still have a long way to go, though. We are very secular, the racism is decreasing and women are increasingly looked at as equals socially and economically. We, as a society have a common moral ground, which we use to look at the rest of the world with and here is a situation where we can, and will help with. Media, as a moral mirror, shows us pictures and informs us about the crisis of immigration in Syria and other areas every day. Concerts are held in support of raising money that will be used to help those in need. Houses are built, or existing reused, to house newly arrived immigrants – which comes in the thousands a day in Sweden. Why? Because, to use Durkheim, the freedom of one’s self, of ones body and the right for welfare and social security is sacred to us. Equality is close to our hearts.

However, as I stated above, the How we help, more specifically is still up for consideration. The Moderate party is looking at a more time limited asylum for newly arrived immigrants, while the Social Democratic Party, does not. Some say “help them ’at home’” and don’t let so many come here, while others say Welcome, and that is not working to send aid to Syria, but maybe instead to the borders of the countries that are hit the “worst” during this crisis. This is an example of the symbolic classification based on the ideological fundament of individuals – just as how high the tax rate should be, they considerer how to help, and how many to help here, at “home”.

If this all would be true, we could analyze that by using, for example, quantitative interviews, and polls. By stating which political view, political party leaning and view on for example taxes rate and standpoint in seekers of asylum we could watch the moral differences even in our society. This could also been looked at based on the media, and how they present the politics of the Swedish political parties. How the text focuses and therefore a text analysis – since the media is the mirror of the common conscience.

While the Social Democratic Party, or even the Red-green government, as well as the Moderate Party and some other in the Liberal Right political Alliance, is looked at – not completely without critique, but still more normalized and common for our moral base and norms, parties like the Sweden Democrats, are looked at with unease – that the politics that they are proclaiming is profane and unaccepted by the majority of the Swedish citizens. That this is a clash of moral – and a “swim again the stream” – at least in the media. While, at the same time, the media also shows, pr presents, results form polls showing that the Sweden Democrats are gaining followers, or sympathizers.

This could be seen as a threat to the “center”, as Alexander states it, which results in a social control mechanism – a “sanction”, as Jacobsson & Löfmarck might have put it. And also, since there are some many emotions following this crisis, that’s why it becomes so big – due to the transgression against the trend, which right now is to help, while the Sweden Democrats are unwilling to do so.


Alexander, J. (2003). Watergate as Democratic Ritual. In The Meanings of Social Life: A cultural Sociology. (pp. 155-177). Oxford: OUP.

Jacobsson, K. & Löfmarck, E. (2008). A Sociology of Scandal and Moral Transgression: The Swedish “Nannygate” Scandal, Acta Sociologica, 51(3), 203-216.

1This might also be relevant for many other countries in the EU today, since it’s member state has reached an agreement about accepting many more seeks of asylum – although How is still up for debate.