Alcoholism in America: From Reconstruction to Prohibition by Sarah W. Tracy

By Sarah W. Tracy

Regardless of the inability of scientific consensus concerning alcoholism as a sickness, many folks with no trouble settle for the idea that of habit as a scientific in addition to a social affliction. An alcoholic is a sufferer of social situation and genetic future. even supposing one may think that this twin method is a mirrored image of modern-day enlightened and sympathetic society, historian Sarah Tracy discovers that efforts to medicalize alcoholism are whatever yet new. Alcoholism in the USA tells the tale of physicians, politicians, courtroom officers, and households suffering to deal with the chance of over the top alcohol intake on the flip of the century. starting with the formation of the yank organization for the remedy of Inebriates in 1870 and concluding with the enactment of Prohibition in 1920, this examine examines the impact of the sickness idea on person drinkers and their households and associates, in addition to the continuing conflict among policymakers and the pro clinical neighborhood for jurisdiction over alcohol difficulties. Tracy captures the complexity of the political, expert, and social negotiations that experience characterised the alcoholism box either the day before today and today.Tracy weaves American scientific background, social background, and the sociology of information right into a narrative that probes the connections between reform events, social welfare coverage, the specialization of medication, and the social development of affliction. Her insights will interact all these attracted to America's ancient and present battles with dependancy. (July 2006)

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13 The late Antebellum Era also saw renewed middle-class drives for local and state prohibition. Eleven states passed prohibitory legislation, although most of these laws were soon repealed. After the Civil War the brewing and distilling industries expanded, and alcohol consumption, especially in the immigrant-rich cities, remained high. But the temperance movement revived as well, linking “demon rum” to concerns about newcomers, workplace efficiency, social welfare, and urban political corruption.

These early settlers, however, drew a distinction between drinking and drunkenness; they considered the latter the work of the devil. Although the first temperance reformers may have been American Indians attempting to curtail the damage colonials introduced to their people through alcohol, the American temperance movement is said to have begun with physician Benjamin Rush’s temperance tract in 1784. Of course, Rush was also the first to describe intemperance as a disease. Fearful for his new nation’s future, Rush recoiled at the prospect of intoxicated voters shaping the country’s destiny—no small consideration at a time when elections often featured heavy drinking and when annual per capita consumption of absolute alcohol figured between four and six gallons (approximately twice the rate in 2000).

The temperance campaigns of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries comprised America’s biggest social reform movement. 58 This was not, however, a case of medical imperialism, for these other social authorities were often as eager to cede responsibility for managing the habitual drunkard as doctors were to embrace him. Instead, it was a case of physicians working with reformers of all stripes to reconstruct the social, moral, and political context in which new sociomedical approaches might operate.

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