Strategic Ignorance or Counter Knowledge: 60 years of Harm Reduction Debates in Swedish Parliament

Friday, 25 November, 2022 - 10:50 to 12:20


After spending several years reading parliamentary protocols relating to measures aiming at reducing drug related harm, it is obvious that quite a few MP's seems to harbor a stubborn knowledge resistance: A reluctance to accept research findings, claiming that findings are non-applicable and simply ignoring what opponents are saying, when discussing a policy that officially aims to be evidence based. The alternative evidence presented is usually based on anecdotes, emotions or a result of careful cherry picking of research evidence that fit the alternative purpose.

Using a qualitative text analysis and building on theories concerned with different types of knowledge and its relation to policy, such as STS and history and sociology of knowledge the arguments have been categorized and analyzed. The pattern that emerges from the extensive material, covering a long period of time, is on reflection not that of individual stubborn MP's, but rather of a rhetorical technique to promote a different view of the problem at hand. In theoretical contexts this behavior is sometimes referred to as 'the logic of strategic ignorance', in others as 'knowing what not to know', nevertheless, the common denominator is a want to obscure and undermine arguments with which you and/or your party do not agree – a de-legitimization of evidence by alternative knowledge, and a promotion of a different view.

The implications of this technique is twofold; first undermining research-based EBP; second, a more benign interpretation, is that it’s a way of promoting counter knowledge, another outlook on the nature of the problem to be solved. This interpretation implies that the ambition to base policy on EBP is not necessarily embraced by all politicians, but also that there is a good reason to appreciate and consider other ways of approaching evidence, knowledge, and the way drug policy is understood and conceived.


Presentation files

25 5A 1050 Lena Eriksson_v1.0.pdf820.24 KBDownload



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