Temperance and modernity, 1885-1913, through the anti-alcohol international conferences (article)

Johan Edman, “Temperance and Modernity: Alcohol Consumption as a Collective Problem, 1885-1913,” Journal of Social History 49/1 (Fall 2015): 20-52.

Author’s Abstract:

My aim is to analyse how the alcohol question and its responses were framed in the formative period in 1885-1913, when the international anti-alcohol conferences were taking shape. How was the alcohol problem framed in terms of current discussions on general themes such as the individual’s role in society, the challenges of modernity and the contribution of science in solving a problem that was traditionally seen as a moral issue? The anti-alcohol conferences of 1885-1913 can be seen as an arrangement for the modern state where the temperance movement placed itself in the service of the state and at the same time demanded that it be given some responsibility for the future development. These were years when the nation acted as a point of reference in several questions that were chafing within the modern project: population qualities and the condition of future generations, the notion of citizenship, industrial strength and competitiveness, the role and the strength of the state. That nation which desired industrial competitiveness, an efficient infrastructure and a strong military institution also did well to ally itself with those temperance advocates who met at the transnational anti-alcohol conferences. The nation which had such objectives and wanted to see sober and strong citizens was encouraged also by the progressive forces in the temperance movement to take up a whole host of issues from women’s political status to an individual’s sex life.

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