Sociology / Crime

Wayward Icelanders
Punishment, Boundary Maintenance, and the Creation of Crime
Helgi Gunnlaugsson and John Galliher

"A major contribution to the study of crime and deviance."
—Ronald A. Farrell, author of The Black Book and the Mob

Is Iceland, universally perceived as a peaceful, idyllic nation, being threatened by an inevitable flood of crime as it enters the global community? In recent decades the Icelandic state has taken serious steps to curb mounting crime, establishing a specialized drug court and an undercover drug police agency. Public opinion polls clearly demonstrate Icelanders' growing concern that crime and drug use are on the rise. In their provocative new book, Wayward Icelanders, Helgi Gunnlaugsson and John Galliher offer another, more nuanced explanation for recent Icelandic attitudes toward crime, one that takes into account the unique history and culture of this relatively homogeneous and isolated nation.

Wayward Icelanders explores how the threat of crime has affected Icelanders' collective self-identity, producing an ever greater need for social control. Historically Iceland has provided stiff sanctions for the use and abuse of mind-altering substances. Drunk driving has long been systematically punished, and even beer was prohibited for more than seventy years. The rate of conviction for these crimes is high, even in a democracy that prides itself on protecting civil liberties. Even more troubling, however, is the low rate of convictions for rape cases, which suggests that such crimes receive less attention from the state. Drawing on the classic work of Durkheim as well as Kai Erikson's Wayward Puritans, Gunnlaugsson and Galliher demonstrate that an escalating war on crime can threaten freedom even in a small, affluent, and relatively nonviolent nation like Iceland with a long-standing commitment to democracy and individual rights.

Helgi Gunnlaugsson is chair and associate professor of sociology at the University of Iceland. John F. Galliher is professor of sociology at the University of Missouri. His many books include Marginality and Dissent in 20th Century Sociology, which he coauthored with James M. Galliher.


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January 2000
184 pp.    11 graphs, 1 map     6 x 9

ISBN 978-0-299-16530-7
Paper $21.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-16534-5

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