Social-Class Factors in Alcoholism

  • Peter Park


Despite slogans such as “Alcoholism is no respecter of class,” there has been a long-standing presumption that alcoholism in its various manifestations affects the lower class more than the rest of the population. It was said half a century ago that inebriety is “at once an effect and cause, symptom and a source of degeneration (poverty, perversion)” (Warner et al., 1930, p. 61). This declaration, almost an exhortation, neatly captures the presumption lying behind the concern about the relationship between social class and alcoholism: that alcoholism is a lower-class phenomenon and that it is the making of the individuals afflicted with the condition. It accomplishes two things with a single stroke. By blaming what would in later generations be called alcoholism on poverty, which is construed as an aberration, the individual is made responsible for his or her poverty, and then for his or her alcoholic condition. At least, this is one side of the formulation, with which this paper will be concerned. (The other side, having to do with alcohol-caused poverty, although it was a topic of intense moral concern during the temperance movement days, has lost its appeal, at least among the professionals who are concerned with such matters, and will not be dealt with here.)


Social Class Traffic Accident Heavy Drinking Lower Class Problem Drinking 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Park
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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