Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800-1930

Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800-1930

Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800-1930

Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800-1930

Synopsis

This is the first comprehensive study of America's anti-liquor/anti-drug movement from its origins in the late eighteenth century through the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933. It examines the role that capitalism played in defining and shaping this reform movement.

Rumbarger challenges conventional explanations of the history of this movement and offers compelling counter-arguments to explain the movement's historical development. He successfully links the ethics of business enterprise and those of moral reform of society for the betterment of enterprise.

The author reveals how readily economic power is transformed first into social power and finally into political power in the context of a bourgeois democracy. He shows that the motivation driving this reform movement was not religiosity, but profit, and that anti-liquor capitalists viewed the human equation as determinant of America's prospect for creating wealth."

Excerpt

The history of America's temperance reform presents kaleidoscopic patterns of a people stressed and distressed by the common drinking practices of their society. For more than a century, hosts of social, fraternal, religious, and political organizations struggled to cope with the drink evil as they understood it, first, by mounting campaigns of moral suasion and, eventually, by organizing for political action.

The conventional image of this "Cold Water Army" is not flattering: evangelical zeal—never a prized commodity within the liberal establishment—is viewed as the core of a movement that traversed the grounds of zealotry, fanaticism, and, finally, obsession. Such dark hues pervading our social landscape have been attributed to middle-class anxieties generated largely by its own morbid concerns to have its success acknowledged. It transpires, in other words, that while the American nation was establishing itself as an industrial colossus and world power, and as a model of liberal, pragmatic democracy, it nurtured narrowly sectarian forces deeply suspicious of the forces transforming America, while, at the same time, comprising a substantial portion of them. It is almost as if two different nations were being built by two different peoples.

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