The Points Interview — Kathleen J. Frydl

Editor’s Note: Kathleen Frydl’s new book, The Drug Wars in America, 1940-1973, is just out from Cambridge University Press. Points welcomes her timely and enlightening interview.

Frydl-book-cover 1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

I tell the story of how and why the US government became “addicted” to the modern drug war, choosing prohibition and punishment over treatment and regulation. I argue that the logic behind the particular shape and targets of the drug war (including that which was not targeted) had less to do with crime or addiction, and more to do with the management of state power.

2.  What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

To be honest, probably not that much. At several points, I rely on that scholarship, but I can’t say that I actually contribute to it. For readers of this blog, it might be interesting — maybe even troubling, but hopefully stimulating — to hear the story of the drug war narrated through a different voice.  I hope it is viewed as a complement to the literature.

That said, there are some parts of the book that may be of interest. In chapter 5, I argue that methadone clinics lost support for a variety of reasons. Proponents of punishment, recovery movements, and various groups on the left imposed standard medical — as opposed to public health — criteria on maintenance: built around “a crisis followed by a cure” paradigm. This is somewhat different from the goals of harm reduction. Under this more demanding paradigm, the fact that every recovery victory could be celebrated  compensated believers for so much failure. In the public health lens, on the other hand, successful maintenance meant only less to be dismayed about. The outcomes were not so heroic and the narrative not so redemptive. Whether it was the Black Panthers or traditional recovery movements, certain advocates criticized maintenance precisely because it staved off the “crisis” which they felt was needed in order to proceed to the “cure,” whether that cure was sobriety or revolution in the inner city.

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The Points Interview — John Markert

Editor’s Note:  Hooked in Film: Substance Abuse on the Big Screen (Scarecrow Press, 2013), by John Markert, is due out in June.  Below, author Markert kindly offers his responses to the Points interview’s palatte of probing questions.

Markert-cover1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender would understand.

Few people have every used heroin or cocaine, yet just about everyone knows that you “shoot” heroin and roll a dollar bill to snort “a line” of powdered cocaine.  These images linger in the mind’s eye because we’ve seen people do this in the movies, even if the images are inaccurate — shooting heroin is rare today, though it continues to be the dominate route of administration depicted in contemporary film.

Movies in contemporary society are a primary way of imparting information about our social world.  We may rely more heavily on film to tell us about drugs than about other social topics since few people have first-hand knowledge about illegal drugs.  Movies, then, become a primacy source of information about who uses what kind of drug, the effect of the drug on the individual, how problematic the drug might (or might not) be in society, and what should be done about the problem, if, in fact, film frames it as a problem.

Heroin, for example, is clearly depicted in film as a deadly drug.  In film, you stick a needle in your arm and you’re as good as dead.  Film ignores the fact that many regular heroin users “chip” at their use and moderate their use depending on heroin’s availability. Film also ignores the fact that while 1.5 percent have played with heroin at some point in their lives, only 0.2 percent can be considered “regular” (past year) users, which means that many people who have experimented with heroin do not become addicts.  The deadly consequences of heroin use depicted in film, though not quite accurate, may not necessarily be a bad thing because it could discourage the casual experimenter from even considering trying heroin. Continue reading →

On E.M. Jellinek’s Trail

Note:  Readers are encouraged to send potential leads, sources, or thoughts relating to E.M. Jellinek’s life to Judit Ward, at jhajnal@rci.rutgers.edu, or Ron Roizen, at ronroizen@frontier.com.  With thanks in advance, from both of us.

Edna Jellinek Lindh Pariser, E.M.'s younger sister, in a 1921 passport photo

Edna Jellinek Lindh Pariser, E.M.’s younger sister, in a 1921 passport photo

Who was E.M. Jellinek?

As a great many Points readers will already be aware, Jellinek rose to prominence in mid-20th-century America as a spokesman for “a new scientific approach” to alcoholism and alcohol.  Prohibition was repealed at the end of 1933, the temperance movement and its paradigm were discredited, and the nation was, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, looking for a new perspective on its longstanding problematic relationship with Demon Rum.  For a variety of reasons, Jellinek proved to be an excellent instrument for inviting the nation to embrace a new and more scientifically oriented disposition toward alcohol-related problems.  He also published two very useful artifacts with respect to the modern alcoholism movement:  a widely employed description of alcoholism’s progressively unfolding symptomatology and a formula for estimating the prevalence of alcoholism.  E.M. Jellinek’s name is still revered today in both the alcohol science community and in Alcoholics Anonymous.

For the past several months,  we — i.e., Judit Ward and her staff at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies library and Ron Roizen in Idaho — have been collecting material on E.M. Jellinek’s life, loves, career, and times.  In part, we’re searching for elements of his past that may have prepared him for the profound role he played in transforming our society’s relationship to alcohol and alcoholism.  Yet — and also — he’s just a damn interesting guy to learn about.  So far, it’s been both an intoxicatingly exciting adventure and a very frustrating task.

One of the project’s strengths is that one of us (viz., J.W.) is a native Hungarian speaker.  This advantage holds considerable promise for ultimately sorting out Jellinek’s currency trading caper in 1920 and his rapid and ignominious departure from Budapest the same year.  It’s also an advantage with respect to new work being done of late by Hungarian scholars on Jellinek’s life and relationships (see Kelemen and Mark [2012], Mark and Brettner [2012], and Hars [2009]).  To date, the American readership of these articles might not stretch far beyond the two of us – with, of course, J.W. doing the translating and R.R. doing the attentive listening.  Yet, this tick up in Hungarian interest is certainly a very welcome sign.  We’ve had the privilege, too, of communicating directly with Gabor Kelemen, one of the Hungarian scholars.  He reports, among other things, that he’s currently at work on an examination of Jellinek’s 1917 monograph on the ethnographic history of the shoe (Jellinek, 1917).

Was that the shoe?!

Not the least engaging aspect of our biographical project is how colorfully varied Jellinek’s many intellectual pursuits were. Continue reading →

The Points Interview — Edgar-André Montigny

Editor’s Note:  Edgar-André Montigny’s edited volume, The Real Dope: Social, Legal, and Historial Perspectives on the Regulation of Drugs in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2011) takes the spotlight today.

The Real Dope1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender would understand.

The Real Dope is a collection of scholarly articles exploring how the government and society in general have dealt with various drugs, from alcohol and tobacco to ecstasy and LSD. The articles introduce us to 19th-century moral reformers, 1920s flappers, downtown Vancouver heroin addicts, psychology professors, hippies, glue-sniffing high school students, ravers, post-war government officials and senators, all interacting in some way with intoxicating substances through using, studying or regulating them.

2.  What do you think a bunch of alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about this book?

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The Points Interview — Dan Malleck

Editor’s note: Dan Malleck is a historian of medicine on the Community Health Sciences faculty at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and he keeps a blog on Canadian drug history. His interview with Points focuses on his recently published book, Try to Control Yourself: The Regulation of Public Drinking in Post-Prohibition Ontario, 1927-44 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012).

1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

Malleck - Try to Control Yourself cover picMy book looks at the introduction and regulation of public drinking from 1927-1944, after prohibition ended in the province of Ontario. It is focused on the relationship between the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the management of licensed drinking spaces, mostly hotel beverage rooms and clubs. It argues that the rules which seem so odd today, were part of a long process of negotiation and an attempt to build a viable public drinking system in a highly politically charged environment. 

2.  What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

The study might be called grass-roots, in that it examines the regulatory activities of the LCBO in six communities across the large province, from the border communities of Windsor (across from Detroit) and the Niagara region (across from Niagara Falls and Buffalo) to the provincial and national capitals (Toronto and Ottawa, respectively), a mixed rural and urban county with a large ethnic German population (Waterloo) and the large region in the northwest (Thunder Bay). It uses the inspection records and communication between the various levels of the LCBO (senior management and inspectors on the ground) and the beverage room operators, along with communications with politicians, interested social organizations and everyday people to develop a picture of the intricate process of regulating the politically charged issue of public drinking in large and diverse province. Historians may be intrigued or repulsed by the theoretical tools I use. Continue reading →

The Points Interview — Herman Ronnenberg

Editor’s Note: “Dr. Beer,” Herman W. Ronnenberg, responds to Points’ questions re his latest book: Material Culture of Breweries (Left Coast Press, 2011).

1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

Ronnenberg-bookThis book traces the development of beer brewing facilities, equipment and techniques in America from the first English brewing at the lost Roanoke Colony to the early 21st Century. It also covers the preparation of brewing materials and the containers used to deliver beer.  Many methods were used to make barley into malt, to grow and dry hops, to try to keep yeast pure.

2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

Many students of alcohol history know little about the manufacturing techniques or the science behind alcohol production. Continue reading →

The Question of Temperance in Idaho’s Constitution

Author’s Note:  Washington State’s privatization of liquor sales in 2011 has stimulated renewed interest in this option in neighboring Idaho, where liquor sales fall under the monopoly control of the Idaho State Liquor Division.  The claim that the ISLD has a constitutional mandate to promote temperance harbors a number of rhetorical utilities for the anti-privatization camp.  But is such a claim justified?  Below, I take another look at the history of Idaho’s state constitution to find out.  – Ron Roizen   

William H. Claggett, president of the Idaho constitutional convention

William H. Claggett, president of the Idaho constitutional convention

Does the Idaho State Liquor Division have a constitutional responsibility to “promote temperance”?

As it happens, the word “temperance” appears in one place only in Idaho’s constitution:

Article III, Section 24, which is titled “PROMOTION OF TEMPERANCE AND MORALITY,” reads as follows:  “The first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home. The legislature should further all wise and well directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality.”

This temperance provision dates back to the original 1889 text of Idaho’s constitution, making it more than 120 years old.

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