The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Honorary doctor at the Faculty of Social Sciences has passed away

Thomas Mathiesen
Thomas Mathiesen (1933-2021). Photo: University of Oslo.

The distinguished socio-legal scholar Thomas Mathiesen died on Saturday, May 29. He was 87 years old.

Thomas Mathiesen received his doctorate from the University of Oslo in 1965 with the dissertation The Defenses of the Weak, which examined the Norwegian prison service. Three years later, he founded the Norwegian Association for Criminal Reform (KROM), with the intent to reform the prison system. He noted that prison does not rehabilitate, incapacitate or deter crime. Instead, it is an inhuman institution that violates human rights and the norms of the welfare state.

His prison research and engagement in the prison abolishment movement made him known internationally and helped establish the sociology of law in Norway and the Nordics.

Thomas Mathiesen became Professor of Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo in 1972. The Faculty of Social Sciences at Lund University appointed him an honorary doctor in 2003.

Researchers at the Sociology of Law Department remembers Thomas Mathiesen

Ida Nafstad, Associate Professor and Associate Senior Lecturer

One of my first memories of Thomas Mathiesen is from the conference “Riv Murarna” (Tear Down the Walls) in Stockholm in 2000. Professor Angela Y. Davis, the famous US abolitionist and former Black Panther Party member, was on the podium; she was excited because she had heard that Thomas Mathiesen, an author that had meant so much to her, was in the audience. Thomas’s influence, impact and significance had international reach, both within academia and within social movements working towards a more humane criminal justice policy. Throughout his career, he balanced academia and activism and had a huge influence in both spheres. One of his greatest achievements in this regard is the yearly KROM (The Norwegian Association for Criminal Reform) conference in the mountains in Norway during the mid-winter. Since 1969, the conference has gathered not only researchers and students, but also lawyers, prison staff, politicians, and, importantly, prisoners for discussions, disagreements, solutions, and visions of a criminal policy without the pains of imprisonment. Thomas’s key thoughts and research on criminal justice policy can be found in his Politics of Abolition, originally published in 1974 and revised in 2015. It has been a privilege to be a student of Thomas, from my first entry into the University, throughout my PhD, and later as a colleague and member of the KROM board. His wisdom, knowledge and engagement will continue to inspire for years to come. He will be greatly missed!

Håkan Hydén, Professor Emeritus

Thomas Mathiesen has meant a lot to the sociology of law in Scandinavia. Already in the 1970s, he succeeded one of the pioneers of forensic sociology in the Nordic countries, Vilhelm Aubert. Thomas Mathiesen had for a long time the leading textbook on the introductory course in sociology of law in Lund, Rätten i samhället (Law in Society). He has participated in several doctoral dissertations at the Sociology of Law Department in Lund, primarily as a member of the examining committee. He has been among the external experts in many personnel appointments over the years, including at my professorship in 1987, and most recently, when Reza Banakar became a professor in 2013. In recognition of his importance for the subject in Lund for over a quarter of a century, he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Social Sciences, on the proposal of the Sociology of Law Department. With the passing of Thomas Mathiesen, we have lost a central figure in the sociology of law. However, many of his ideas and thoughts live on in books such as Den dolda disciplineringen: essäer om politisk kontroll, Makt og medier: en innføring i mediesosiologi and Makt och motmakt, to name a few of all the publications that Thomas Mathiesen has delivered over the years. They all have such character and strength that they do not disappear with the author's death. In other words, Det ofullgångna (Swedish translation) from 1972 lives on.