Illegal yet licit : justifying informal purchases of work in contemporary Sweden
Svart arbete, informal purchases of work, is a widely debated societal phenomenon in Sweden. It is often seen as detrimental to contemporary welfare society, eroding taxpaying morals, fair competition and solidarity with fellow citizens. Acknowledged as wrong, it is in many instances also an acceptable and commonplace exchange practice. This study addresses this incongruity and aims to show how these inconspicuous exchanges of work are distinguished in terms of legality and licitness. This study is based on ethnographic interviews with a group of middle-aged people in all walks of life, who have their roots in a small town in southern Sweden. In the midst of life and work, they address situations where living in accordance with moral standards becomes difficult. This study aims to illuminate multifaceted reasonings about the illegal but licit purchases made and how people make sense and meaning of them in retrospect and in the larger context of societal economy. The ways in which these purchases of svart arbete are justified illustrate inherent tensions in contemporary welfare society.