Harry Gene Levine: Joseph R. Gusfield and the Multiple Perspectives of Cubist Sociology

Note from Ron:  Here is another tribute to the late Joe Gusfield, authored by Harry Gene Levine.  It circulated via email among some of us old-guard alcohol and drug history types a few days ago.  And, when I asked him, Harry was kind enough grant permission it be published at Points. The italicized first paragraph, below the Picasso image, offers Harry’s suggested introductory words for the piece.  I’m also going to take the liberty of adding, as a comment, below, my response to it when it was sent around by email.  I really like this piece.  Thank you, Harry!

Picasso's Guernica

Picasso’s Guernica

In 2000 I was invited to join a panel at the meetings of the Law and Society Association devoted to Joe Gusfield and his book Symbolic Crusade.  I wrote a four page presentation, only slightly tongue-in-cheek.  Since hearing of his death I have been thinking about him a lot and dug up the paper. It’s kind of sweet.    — H.G.L.

Joseph R. Gusfield’s book, Symbolic Crusade, discusses the temperance movement in America history. I too have studied the American temperance movement and would like to begin with a brief description of the temperance and prohibition crusade that I didn’t write but wish I could have: the first paragraph of Symbolic Crusade.

For many observers of American life, the temperance movement is evidence for an excessive moral perfectionism and an overly legalistic bent to American culture. It seems the action of devoted sectarians who are unable to compromise with human impulse. The legal measures taken to enforce abstinence display the reputed American faith in the power of Law to correct all evils. This moralism and utopianism bring smiles to the cynical and fear to the sinner. Such a movement seems at once naive, intolerant, saintly and silly.

One of the difficulties of writing like that is that it involves discussing so many things at one time. Every sentence in that paragraph talks about the American temperance movement, and about topics other than the temperance movement. I propose that double or triple focus is part of Gusfield’s intellectual genius. For many years I could not even recognize that Joe was focusing on several things at once. I myself am often unable to see even one thing at a time. At first I usually only see part of one thing. Then, like Columbo, the rumpled detective played by Peter Falk, I return scratching my head, thumbing through my notes, and asking again about something that still confuses me.

I’ve been reading Gusfield’s books and articles for twenty-five years trying to understand how he produces his distinctive intellectual, emotional and perceptual effects on the page and in the reader. I would like to report a few things I have figured out about Joseph R. Gusfield’s sociology.     Continue reading →

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Collier’s 1943 Snapshot of the First Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies

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.

Jellinek and YSS women students 1943“IF YOU saw an Anti-Saloon Leaguer shake the hand of a saloonkeeper,” wrote Amy Porter in the October 30, 1943 issue of Collier’s magazine, “and the two of them walk and talk together as thick as thieves, your first question might well be: Where am I? The answer would have to be: At the School of Alcohol Studies at Yale. Nowhere else, probably, has such an event taken place.”

Placed adjacent these opening sentences was the happy picture shown above, featuring E.M. Jellinek, with a coyly grateful smile, flanked by two clearly delighted Yale Summer School students, one from the temperance tradition and the other from Seagram’s. Porter’s article was titled “Wet and Dry School” – thus telegraphing from the get-go that the new institution took no position on the great alcohol controversy and cultural schism that, by 1943, had preoccupied the nation for more than a hundred years.

Such magazines as Collier’s, Look, and Life provided the photo journalism of their day. Several photos of the Yale school’s activities, faculty, and students accompanied Porter’s text — these credited to Collier’s photographer Hans Knopf-Pix. Four are reproduced in this post.

Porter’s focus on the possibility of a happy coming together — call it a national reunion — of Americans around the alcohol issue illuminated an important and yet little discussed latent function of “the new scientific approach” to alcohol that Jellinek and his Yale school colleagues proffered. 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 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.

Continue reading →

Reflecting on Idaho U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s Unfortunate and Humbling DUI

cab-1.0U.S. Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho had the unhappy experience of being arrested in Alexandria, Virginia for DUI on Sunday, December 23rd, at 12:45am, after failing to stop at a red light.  His reported blood alcohol level was 0.11 percent, somewhat above the 0.08 percent legal limit.  Crapo later expressed deep regret for the incident.  The episode has since been recounted in numerous TV, online, and newspaper reports.

Not the least interesting aspect of the incident is that Crapo (pronounced CRAY-poe) is a Mormon.  Contrary to prevailing impressions, however, survey studies show that Mormonism is not a wholly abstemious faith community.  A 1989 survey, for example, found that about half of adult Mormons sampled (49.3 percent) had consumed alcohol within the past year, including 31 percent reporting drinking within the past 30 days.  Sentiment toward alcohol in the Mormon community isn’t quite as bone dry as U.S. popular opinion might have imagined either.  A 2011 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found that only a little more than half (54 percent) of Mormon respondents thought “drinking alcohol” was “morally wrong,” 38 percent thought it “not a moral issue,” and six percent thought it “morally acceptable.”  These frequencies contrasted with Mormon views of abortion, for example, where 74 percent of respondents selected the “morally wrong” response. Continue reading →

The Points Interview — Howard Padwa

Editor’s Note:  “For an otherwise law abiding morphine addict struggling to overcome addiction in the late 1920s, Britain was a more welcoming place than France.”  So begins Howard Padwa’s Social Poison: The Culture and Politics of Opiate Control in Britain and France, 1821-1926 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).  A graduate of the University of Delaware, Padwa continued his studies at the London School of Economics and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris before securing a doctorate in history from UCLA.  In our interview, Padwa highlights the place of  differing conceptions of proper membership in a national community as a deep source of Britain’s and France’s differential responses to illicit drugs. 

1.  Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

I started with two simple questions: First, why did opiates become so tightly controlled in the early twentieth century? Second, were the reasons the same everywhere? While a lot of scholars have looked at these questions, most have focused on studying things either globally (why did drugs become tightly controlled everywhere), or nationally (why did drugs become tightly controlled in this country or that country). In Social Poison I blended these approaches, looking at things internationally, but with a detailed focus on two countries (Great Britain and France).

As for the first question—why did opiates become so tightly controlled? I approached this question by looking at what people were afraid would happen if they didn’t control opiates. What would society look like if everyone could use them as much as they liked whenever they liked? I found that two fears were particularly common in the nineteenth century. First, people feared that opiates would take a toll on physical and mental health, eventually making users unable to care for themselves or contribute to society. Second, they feared that people who used opiates would essentially “tune out” of society, neglecting their duties to their friends, families, and countrymen when they were under the influence. In both cases, what made opiate use problematic was not just that use was considered “immoral,” but also that it seemed to compromise users’ abilities to act as good citizens. Drug use was understood as more than just a medical or psychological disorder—it was also a threat to the normal functioning of social relationships.

This led to the second question—were the reasons drugs became tightly controlled the same everywhere? The kind of social problem opiate use could become depended, to a large degree, on how “society” was defined. In Britain, where the national community was imagined as individuals functioning in a free market, fears focused on the impact drug use could have on self-sufficiency and commerce. In France, on the other hand, the nation was understood in a more collectivistic way, and engagement of citizens with society was considered most important. So, in the French context, fears that drugs would make users disengaged or disloyal were much stronger. Each country developed its own specific brand of what I call “anti-narcotic nationalism”—reasons for opposing drug use that were particular both to opiates and to specific national concerns.

Anti-narcotic nationalism went beyond the ways that the British and French talked about opiate use in the nineteenth century; it also influenced the development of drug control in the early twentieth century. In Britain, concerns about the effect the drug trade could have on commerce facilitated the landmark piece of legislation that established opiate control on the British mainland during World War I. In France, concerns about drug use, treason, military discipline, and national security were the driving forces behind drug control initiatives that took effect in 1908 and 1916. Once drug control was established, anti-narcotic nationalism also influenced how British and French authorities treated their addicted citizens. In Britain, when it became clear that opiate use was not necessarily incompatible with self-sufficiency or productivity, the government sanctioned maintenance treatment for some addicts. In France, on the other hand, associations of drug control with national security remained in place, as did strict regulations limiting the provision of drugs to confirmed addicts. Continue reading →

Catching Up With Bruce Holley Johnson, Ph.D.

Bruce Holley Johnson

Almost 40 years in, Bruce H. Johnson’s 1973 dissertation, The Alcoholism Movement in America: A Study in Cultural Innovation, has remained an invaluable source and a ready companion for historians and sociologists interested in the rise and diffusion of the alcoholism paradigm in 20th century America.  Johnson himself, however, seemed to disappear from view in the alcohol studies field after the dissertation’s completion.  In late June, I managed to catch up with him at his home in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a small town on the Susquehanna River, north of Harrisburg, where he lives with his spouse, Emily.

At age 75, Bruce reported he’s in good health and good spirits.  His career track, he explained, simply took him away from alcohol studies — first, into criminal justice education and, next, into teaching organizational change.  Little Brown, the Boston-based publishing house, showed an initial interest in publishing his dissertation but their medical review committee ultimately turned it down.  I asked Bruce if he’d for some reason intentionally concealed himself from the alcohol studies community after 1973.  He said no.  At the time, he explained, very few people in the academic world seemed interested in his work or its subject matter.  A key theme in his dissertation, he continued, had been to dispel the idea that social movements were coherent, well-integrated social systems.  On the contrary, the “alcoholism movement,” as his dissertation research showed, was diffuse, factionalized, and strife-ridden.  Leaders in different parts of the movement, said Johnson, were, as often as not, “barely on speaking terms.”  For each one the movement was a very personal crusade.

Wheaton College, Illinois

Continue reading →