The Nordic countries have been characterized by strong state capacity as well as strong social movements emerging in the nineteenth century. Especially the labor movement, revivalist movement, and temperance movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in countries with average population numbers of two to five million. However, the “state + civil society” narrative misses how movement elites helped shape the movements, and while historians have pointed to individual leaders within movements, they have not been studied as groups in and of themselves.

This points to a larger lacuna in social movement research, where elites are recognized for their role in co-optation processes, as movement constituents, etc., but seldom studied as moral agents who promote certain interpretative frames over others.

In this chapter, I pursue the questions: Who were the moral elites of the 19th and early twentieth century Danish temperance movement, and how did they integrate value and belief frames of interpretation in relation to the question of alcoholism?

I begin the chapter by pointing out how research on elites in movements has been conducted largely unconnected to the literature on framing and interpretation. I then introduce the concept of moral elite as a way to bridge this gap, before I describe the case of the Danish temperance movement and show how I intend to analyze the case using social network analysis and interpretive method on Who’s Who data and key texts, respectively. The analysis proceeds in three steps: first, I introduce the SNA to show how three specific clusters form within the movement elite, and I describe the characteristics of the clusters: traditional, organic, and revivalist. Then, I show how each cluster espoused different values: Patronal, Enlightenment, and Holiness/civil society. In the third and final analytical section, I show how each strand integrated the now prevailing “alcoholism as a degenerative disease frame” into their value systems. Finally, I conclude and discuss how the strategies pursued by the respective elites may have influenced the fate of the movement.

Theory and Method

From Elites and Frames to Moral Elites in Social Movements

From the first emergence of nineteenth century mass mobilization, scholars have noted how egalitarian movements inadvertently and incisively build organizational elites that do not share immediate interests with constituents or adherents (Michels, 1968 [1911]; Selznick, 1949). Researchers continue to pursue this line of inquiry in studies of co-optation and elite patronage (Holdo, 2019; Jenkins & Eckert, 1986). Others tend to understand movement elites through their capacity of “brokers” in diffusion processes (Tarrow, 2005; Tarrow & McAdam, 2005)—a perspective that is concerned mainly with the role of central actors in the spread of movements but does not consider this group as an “elite” engaged in a struggle over interpretive frames. Others have considered “movement entrepreneurs” within the movement or “conscience elites” outside the movement proper but have not been particularly interested in the question of movement elites (McCarthy & Zald, 1977). Few scholars have discussed the issue of elites directly and, when doing so, primarily with an eye to describing diffusion processes (Caniglia, 2002; Diani, 2000). In the connected field of studies of revolutions, elites have played a role in terms of their support of or defection from a regime (Brinton, 1965; Moore, 1993; Tilly, 1978)—a role that has inspired elements of the development of field theory (Fligstein & McAdam, 2012).

The discussion of elites and their relation to social movements seems to have been conducted mostly without linking to the part of the literature that deals with framing and interpretation in social movements, most prominently promoted by the frame alignment perspective of Snow, Benford et al. (Benford & Snow, 2000; Snow et al., 1986; Snow & Benford, 1988). Here, “interpretive orientations” between individuals and social movement organizations (SMOs) are aligned through the strategic use of interpretive frames by SMOs (Snow et al., 1986). In an innovative way, Michael Young has applied a similar approach in his studies of the emergence of the US American temperance movement, which he analyzes as a result of the merging of populist intensive schemas (or frames) for public confession and establishment extensive schemas (i.e., organizational schemas) for missionary work (Young, 2002, 2006). Importantly, these studies point to the role of populist vs. establishment moral schemas. By emphasizing the institutional and social origins of temperance schemas, Young breaks with a dominant paradigm in the study of the movement. With a starting point in Marx (Marx & Engels, 1979 [1848]), the temperance movement has widely been viewed as part of the “do-good” industry that either merely scratched the surface of social problems or served as a type of hegemony or social control (Banner, 1973). The perhaps most widely recognized study of the US American temperance movement found that the “morality” the movement espoused was mainly a means for white Anglo-Saxon Protestant groups to bolster their status position in society vis-à-vis Catholic immigrant groups (Gusfield, 1963).

In the analysis, I will pursue to nuance the movement further in showing how the moral elites of the Danish movement belonged to conflicting ideological projects and adopted value and belief frames differently. I propose the concept of moral elites as a way of bridging two thus far distinct research traditions in social movement research.

Theory: The Moral Elites of Social Movements and Frames

The moral elite is the elite that has the resources and positions to articulate a specific moral order. In principle, one could imagine a moral elite that based itself on sheer force—this is the Nietzschean moral elite that is de facto moral simply because of its societal position, without access to any resource to symbolic legitimation of this position.Footnote 1 Early on, Weber denounced that such an elite could be found empirically (Weber, 1988).

More specifically, moral elites can be defined as groups that can claim authority over the organization of moral orders in society with reference to symbolic resources that it controls in disproportionate amounts vis-à-vis the rest of the population (cf. Khan, 2012). The symbolic resources that moral elites have at their disposal are especially charismatic and knowledge resources. While charisma is an ascribed quality, it can be possessed and can present a source of moral leadership in religious as well as political movements (Pakulski, 2012; Weber, 1978). It is, however, fleeting, and moral elites in most situations and societies rely on “priests” rather than “prophets” (Lang, 2001): guardians of institutions relying on “learned” knowledge about the symbolic grounds of authority rather than an intuitive insight into the realm of existential and moral secrets (James, 1982).

Continuing this line of reasoning, movement elites are not equivalent to the moral elites of a movement. A movement’s leadership typically consists of groups that can muster different types of resources. Preliminarily, let us distinguish between bellatores and oratores (warriors and priests), i.e., between those who hold political, military, and economic power and those who hold cultural or educational capital (intellectuals). The third part of this “movement class structure,” then, is laboratores (laborers) who hold few power resources (Bourdieu, 2018, p. 98, 2020, p. 36). While bellatores will often be necessary in order to muster “hard” resources for movements, oratores are crucial in shaping frames to resonate with different audiences. In the analysis, I focus on three types of such resources: educational resources, organizational resources, and publications as indicators of the ability to articulate moral principles.

Moral elites are characterized not only by the resources to which they have access but also by how they put these resources to use. Charisma and literacy are not simply resources on which to base claims to authority but also constitute resources for cultivating and pushing interpretive frames regarding ends and means. Snow and Benford refer to values and beliefs. Values imply the goal of collective action. In value amplification processes, SMOs emphasize certain values in order to bring them to the top of the agenda of possible constituents and adherents or to link the organizations’ issues to values that are already at the top of the value hierarchy of possible “converts.” On the other hand, beliefs imply the perception of means to reach the goals or “ideational elements that cognitively support or impede action in pursuit of desired values” (Snow et al., 1986, p. 469f). Those involved in social movements hold beliefs about causality and blame, stereotypical beliefs about opponents, about the efficacy of action, and about the necessity to mobilize (ibid., 470). Benford and Snow’s distinction between values and beliefs is mimicked in the broader institutional literature, even if the nomenclature varies (e.g., principled and causal beliefs) (Goldstein & Keohane, 1993; Haas, 1997; Münnich, 2010).

Values and beliefs, importantly, are embedded in larger ideological struggles for hegemony (Gramsci, 1989). Moral elites are essential in influencing how movements may resonate with specific ideological projects. A value such as health can be made to resonate with conservative as well as progressive projects – a healthy society as an organism in balance, or a society that provides healthy meals for all children regardless of background. Similarly, the role of beliefs in movements is not limited to holding certain actions to be feasible or not but also to interpreting the “factuality” of the social sphere in which movements are operating. Certain groups have power of nomination (the power to name) and institution (the power to institute social orders).“Stating that “there are two social classes” is not merely a statement of fact but similarly an intervention; a performative act of nomination and institution that helps bring about these two classes—if one has the authority to do so.” (Bourdieu, 2018, p. 23). Beliefs also entail techniques: the types of intervention believed to produce a certain result (Foucault, 1998; Mannheim, 1940).

The moral elites are in this way engaged in a struggle over values and beliefs, with consequences for what kind of normative and causal frames are successful over time and what actions are taken on the basis of these interpretive frames. Social movements typically have a wide repertoire of collective actions and interpretive frames to engage with, and the moral elite of the movements plays a crucial role in furthering certain types of value, belief, and action rather than others. In Denmark, different parts of the moral elite were engaged in the struggle over how to interpret alcoholism; this entailed the question of how to embed causal beliefs in value beliefs—an embedding that ultimately had consequences for the outcome, the actions taken, and the long-term survival of different strands of the movement.

The Case

In the Nordic countries, as well as elsewhere, the temperance movement was one of the three major popular movements of the nineteenth century, along with the labor movement and the revivalist movement. All three movements followed Michels’ “iron law” to some degree: the labor movement soon after its inception followed Bernstein rather than Marx in that it would pursue a reformist parliamentarian strategy rather than a revolutionary strategy, and the revivalist movements which, in the first half of the nineteenth century, were led by laymen would largely be co-opted by priests and remain within the national churches (except partly in Sweden). Similarly, the temperance movement emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century, especially in connection to Methodist circles, but its breakthrough happened during the second half of that century as pastors, medical doctors, and similar groups took up the cause (Eriksen, 1988).

These movement elites would not only to a large extent control the resources and strategies of the movements but also the interpretive frames through which to understand the plight of their constituents or target groups, i.e., the moral principles on which the organizations acted.

In Denmark, the temperance movement reached its zenith in 1917 when approximately 200,000 individuals, equivalent to 7% of the Danish population, were members of a temperance organization (Eriksen, 1988, p. 253; Gundelach, 1988, p. 156). The largest organization was the mainly secular organization The Danish Abstinence Association (Danmarks Afholdsforening) with ca. 67,000 members in 1911. The lodges, IOGT and Nordic IOGT, gathered the second largest following, while the revivalist Christian organization The Blue Cross became the third largest group with 32,866 members in 1917. Besides these were minor organizations for women, Catholics, medical doctors, students, and other groups.Footnote 2

The movements thus experienced most of their growth during the “provisional era” (ca. 1877–1901). This was a time of heightened conflict where conservatives and progressives struggled over the principle of parliamentarism: whether the king or the democratically elected parliament had the right to appoint the members of government. During this period, the national budget would unilaterally be approved by the king’s government through provisional laws, i.e., without parliamentary control. Any mobilization would thus inevitably be on one or the other side of this struggle over democracy—and align the frames of their movement accordingly.

Today, the temperance movement has all but disappeared in Denmark, as it has experienced a continuous decline in membership since the introduction of a steep tax on distilled spirits in 1917. The sole survivor is the originally less affluent revivalist organization Blue Cross that continued in existence as a service provider for the state. This outcome can partially be explained by the interpretive efforts of the early moral elite of the movement.

Method: SNA and Interpretivism

In order to show how elites influenced moral frames in the Danish temperance movement, I combine social network analysis with qualitative hermeneutic methods.

I define the temperance elite population as the individuals accepted into the Danish Who’s Who (Blå Bog) with stated organizational ties to the temperance movement. The Danish Who’s Who has been published annually (with few exceptions) from 1910 until today. I have selected individuals from the 1910 to 1919 editions. They were found through a search based on a list of 16 Danish temperance organizations collected by a contemporaneous source (N. Dalhoff & Jørgensen, 1911). The start of the period becomes somewhat fuzzy because the biographical entries reach back to the beginning of the careers of the individuals.

Arguably, the Who’s Who is not merely a sample but can be treated as population data, i.e., assumed to include the entire elite at a given point in time. There has been some discussion in elite research circles over inclusion criteria (Hoffmann-Lange, 2018). Essentially, this debate concerns a positional and a reputational approach. The positional approach claims that the elite consists of individuals who hold formal top positions in organizational hierarchies within specific influential sectors (Mills, 1999; Mosca, 1939; Scott, 2008). The reputational approach, on the other hand, claims that formal representation may not mirror actual influence and that estimates by elite “insiders” are actually more accurate criteria (Hunter, 1953). Social network analysis approaches can be said to represent a middle road between the two, including central individuals in formal network positions (Ellersgaard et al., 2013; Larsen & Ellersgaard, 2019). The Danish Who’s Who includes individuals based on both criteria. It rests on a large number of publications on the elites within different sectors in Danish society, but the editors have also had the discretion to include individuals based on a wider “publicity” criterion—those “whose careers would be of interest to a wider circle. And we have paid special attention to those men and women who have contributed to large organizations” (Kraks blaa Bog: tre tusinde nulevende danske Mænd og Kvinders Levnedsløb indtil Aar 1910, 1910, p. 5, my translation). Moreover, the mere fact of being in the Who’s Who adds to the “eliteness” of an individual, thus adding a performative aspect to the publication (Friedman & Reeves, 2020). Ca 3000 persons were accepted into these first editions. Each of the accepted persons filled in a questionnaire to provide information on their occupation, organizational affiliations, place of residence, etc.

Building on the theoretical definition of moral elites, the moral elites of the temperance movement can be distinguished through a set of indicators. First, “moral resources” in the form of education that provides a basis for moral authority: university degrees in relation to social and human science in particular, but also journalism and self-defined “authorship.” Second, occupation in a position within an organization that in itself provides a platform for moral authority: schools and educational institutions, political parties, religious organizations, professional boards, medical positions, etc. Third, publications on themes related to the cause at hand: temperance.

I have applied these indicators by first searching the Who’s Who database for organizations and variations of words known to be central to the movement such as sobriety, temperance, templar, and Blue Cross.Footnote 3 Thirty-seven individual biographies were identified. Ten were excluded because they had either no connection to the movement or were affiliated only with local chapters. One person was added who had not included his temperance affiliation in his biography. This leaves 28 individuals with a total of 220 organizational affiliations. The SNA was done using Gephi software.

The qualitative part of the analysis is based on readings of publications by representative and prominent individuals within each cluster.

Analysis: Three Moral Elites in Temperance—Integrating Disease and Values Frames

In the following section, I will first map out the structure of the temperance elite in order to focus on the moral elite of this elite.

The Moral Elite Temperance Network

Let us break down the composition of the temperance elites that are registered in the Danish Who’s Who 1910–1919. Using Gephi’s modularity function, six distinct clusters were revealed (Fig. 10.1). Figure 10.1 is a two-mode network consisting of organizations and individuals with more than one connection to others in the network. This means that all organizations that are only connected to one individual are hidden, leaving those organizations with most integrative force.

Fig. 10.1
figure 1

Who’s Who of temperance leaders. Six clusters

The three isolated islands (bottom right) represent (1) the White Cross, a temperance organization for women, of which Thyra Jensen was a board member. She is the only woman in the population and central in the women’s movement, (2) the Methodist Evangelical Temperance Association, represented by founder Anton Bast, and (3) the IOGT, represented by Henrik Voss, the organization’s so-called Grand Templar.

The analysis will focus on the three large clusters. One forms around the initially Copenhagen-based evangelical temperance organization Blue Cross (Blå Kors), along with the revivalist organizations Copenhagen Church Foundation (Det Københavnske Kirkefond) and Copenhagen Home Mission (Kirkelig Forening for indre Mission i København) (left-hand cluster).

The largest component in the middle is centered around the largest temperance association at the time, Danish Abstinence Association (Danmarks Afholdsforening), as well as organizations associated with the social-liberal wing of Danish politics: the Liberal Association in rural town Hjørring, the Association of Liberal Newspapers in Denmark (Foreningen af Venstreblade i Danmark), the Social-Liberal Party (Venstrereformpartiet/Radikale Venstre),Footnote 4 the Peace Association (Dansk Fredsforening), and the liberal students’ association Studentersamfundet. The temperance organization The Abstinence Society (Afholdssamfundet) also belongs here as the urban branch of the progressive temperance movement.

The third cluster on the right side has the Society for the Promotion of Sobriety (Samfundet til Ædrueligheds Fremme) at its center but also includes associations for combatting tuberculosis (International Tuberkulosebureau i Berlin) and crime (Dansk Kriminalistforening).

Only three organizational ties connect the three clusters: the Students’ Abstinence Association (Studenternes Afholdsforening), the board of the Copenhagen Public Libraries, and membership of one or two of the Sobriety Commissions appointed by parliament. This is indicative of the type of education and expertise that characterizes the moral elite (see Fig. 10.2 for a representation of the most important organizations, weighted by degree of connectivity).

Fig. 10.2
figure 2

Organizations in the moral elite network of Danish temperance 1910–1919. Size of nodes and labels reflect degree of connectivity

In the network, moral authority abounds. The individuals score high on the three indicators introduced above. First, education: of the 28, 17 have university degrees or similar, or higher. Another four work as authors or are trained as journalists or teachers. The remaining seven have apprenticeships, farming education, or private theological degrees (Methodist)—or they have been trained on the family farm or in public service (public railroads).

Second, organizational platforms for moral authority include, in this case, Christian, philanthropic, political, and educational affiliations. While religious and philanthropic affiliations are recurring in the two religiously dominated clusters, the large middle cluster is rich in affiliations to the Bildungs-oriented so-called people’s folk high schools (or people’s high schools) for the rural youth, as well as political affiliations especially to the social-liberal party. Here, six peopleFootnote 5 are represented in either the first or second chamber of parliament (one for the conservative Højre). One may also argue that occupying a central position in the temperance movement is an indicator of “moral eliteness.”Footnote 6

The third indicator of moral authority is publications. Here, we find marked differences. Twelve have no or few stated publications, 5 have publications not immediately relevant to the temperance cause, while 10 have significant publications on the temperance cause. The 10 are represented in all of the three main clusters and can be said to represent the utmost elite of the temperance moral elite. Consequently, the analysis will focus on this group.

In the analysis, I describe the three clusters in more detail and show the dominant value and belief frames in each. I illustrate the organizational affiliations of each individual through EGO networks where individuals are colored red, temperance organizations green, and other organizations purple. The organizations’ names are in Danish, and the most important organizations are explained in the text.

The Moral Elites’ Value Frames: Enlightenment, Tradition, and Revivalism

The first, large cluster around the Danish Abstinence Association and the Abstinence Society connects primarily with organizations related to the social-liberal farmers’ movement but also the urban social-liberal movement. In terms of educational resources, this cluster is the most diverse as it includes the less educated farmer class as well as a law degree (Heilesen), a humanities degree (Trier), two teachers (Nielsen-Svinning, Nielsen-Grøn), a theologian (Sørensen), and a medical doctor (Ottosen). Organizationally, it is by far the best represented in the parliamentary chambers, where the farmers make up for lack of education. The most prolific authors in this cluster are Heilesen, Trier, and Ottosen.

The arguably strongest articulation of the cause was put forward by C.C. Heilesen (Fig. 10.3), the leader of the Danish Abstinence Association 1921–1924 (i.e., after the period analyzed here).

Fig. 10.3
figure 3

Heilesen’s EGO network

Heilesen is symptomatic of the organic social-liberal elite. Trained as a lawyer, he would become an attorney with the supreme court in 1927. He was active in the peace movement and the cooperative movement and was born in Hjørring in Northern Denmark.

He explicitly couched the cause in democratic terms: temperance was a cause by the people for the people. In 1929, Heilesen published a text to commemorate the Danish Abstinence Association’s 50th anniversary. The publication carried the subtitle “local self-governance, immediate rule by the people, carried by Enlightenment and Education” (Heilesen, 1929).Footnote 7 This subtitle indicated Heilesen’s view of the congruence between ideology and strategy that had characterized the organization from its beginning: it had worked to allow local parish referendums on the question of banning alcohol distribution and consumption, just as it had worked for national referendums (ibid., 6). While referendums were part of a strategy also pursued by the conservative factions of the temperance movement, to Heilesen it was clearly part of an ideology of direct popular rule—and rule of law. In other writings, Heilesen strongly advocated the principle of referendums as a way of strengthening parliamentarism through the means of direct democracy. Invoking Rosseau and the Swiss system of direct democracy, politicians were cast as envoys for the people rather than merely its representatives (Heilesen, 1926).

Herman Trier (1855–1912) (Fig. 10.4), educated in the humanities and specialized in pedagogics, founder and chairman of the Abstinence Society, represents the urban part of this social-liberal cluster. He was politically awakened during the constitutional struggle (ca 1877–1901) and became chairman of the social-liberal Students’ Society and Radical Left Party. He spearheaded the study of pedagogics in Denmark.

Fig. 10.4
figure 4

Herman Trier’s EGO network

Trier had taken the pledge of sobriety in solidarity with workers and had co-founded the Society with Social Democrat A.C. Meyer (1858–1938) and medical doctor Michael Larsen (Marstrand, 1936, p. 52). Trier and Meyer would give talks on the effect of alcohol on the body at events organized by local trade unions (Trier, 1902a). Trier argued consistently that the temperance cause was an Enlightenment question (Trier, 1902b, p. 553). It was crucial that children learn not only abstain but also learn about the reason why they should abstain from alcohol consumption (Trier, 1892, p. 359).

The social-liberal moral elite thus pursued two complementary value frames: a frame of popular rule, where alcohol consumption would be banned through direct democratic means locally and nationally, and an Enlightenment frame to educate the population—young people, women, workers, etc. While the democratic Enlightenment proponents did use other techniques such as the temperance pledge and later on also treatment facilities, these were not the central frames pushed by this moral elite. Their treatment facilities came late and were short-lived, and the pledge seemed merely to be an integrated part of being a “man of abstinence.” This was radically different in the ideology of the other parts of the temperance elite.

The second cluster around the Society for the Promotion of Sobriety is the least well-represented group with only five directly associated individuals. Characteristically, these are three medical doctors, a theologian, and a lawyer. Organizationally, the cluster is dense with philanthropic associations to combat diseases, mental disability, and social illnesses. By far, the most prolific writers were Dalhoff, who wrote on theological issues related to temperance and philanthropy in general, and Geill who wrote on the physiological aspects of alcoholism, criminality, and insanity.

This group was not proponents of a particularly strong political ideology or revivalist theology, but either fulfilled obligations traditional for their professions or were “practitioners” who had worked closely with the subjects of their cause. Christian Geill, a medical doctor and leader of the Society 1898–1910, started his career working at mental hospitals and as a prison physician. He eventually became a member of several commissions and charities on sobriety and on the penal system (or criminal care, kriminalforsorgen). N.C. Dalhoff (Fig. 10.5) was co-founder of the society. He was born in Copenhagen and found his calling when working in an insane asylum. He became especially involved in the diaconal movement.

Fig. 10.5
figure 5

N.C. Dalhoff’s EGO network

Dalhoff was the ideological beacon of the organization. In his programmatic book, Go and do likewise!, he emphasized with reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan that “Christianity is practical” (Dalhoff, 1900, p. 1). He stressed that pastors should serve their congregation and showed how deaconry (for which he had found inspiration visiting pastor Friedrich v. Bodelschwingh in Betel near Bielefeld in Germany) shared commonalities with secular philanthropy, Christian socialism, and the evangelical Home Mission, all of whom sought to improve the lot of humans. However, the society differed in relying partly on other principles: spirituality vis-à-vis secular philanthropy, mercy vis-à-vis justice, and, finally, deaconry was not missionary work, but missionary work would often be the precondition for deaconry (ibid., 23–27). This is emblematic of this type of traditional moral elite: temperance was part of the obligations of the priestly estate—an estate that needed to act on the example of Jesus rather than become caught up in theological discussions.

Dalhoff not only talked about the example of Jesus but also sought to follow it, contributing to the foundation of treatment facilities (“salvation homes”) for alcoholics during the 1890s. Through the Diakonissestiftelse, Deaconess Foundation, he was active in setting up specialized treatment facilities and philanthropic institutions for children, epileptics, the chronically ill, tuberculosis patients, and prostitutes. Later, he would found the organization Work Ennobles to combat begging and homelessness, Fatherless Youth to provide education for orphans, the philanthropic Stefanus Association, Cooperating Congregational Care, as well as a number of causes for children, the mentally disabled, and the deaf and mute.

All of this work has a decidedly philanthropic character and is carried by the estate habitus of the traditional elite. The moral responsibility of this elite was a generalization of the local pastor’s responsibilities in the old society. It was a vertical responsibility of the clergy to care for the least fortunate among the congregation. This was not a revolutionary ideology intended to break with old ways of caring for the poor. Rather, it was reformist, building on the national church structure to broaden the responsibilities of the congregation. For centuries, the local pastor and physician had taken part in healing the social illnesses of their local communities. The elite involved with the society can be viewed as lifting this local responsibility to the national level.

The third cluster around Blue Cross, the Home Mission, and the Church Foundation is constituted by theologians and revivalist laymen: three theologians and three well-known academic revivalists (an MD, an archeologist/librarian, and an economist), and an industrialist. Organizationally, they are highly involved in philanthropy, but like the second cluster not in national politics. In terms of publications, the most prolific are the laymen Harald Westergaard (economist) and H.O. Lange (archeologist-librarian).

This cluster in many ways built on the work and thoughts of the moral elite of the second cluster, but its members were indeed more radical. Based in Copenhagen—a city that in the dying decades of the nineteenth century experienced a wave of Reformed populist evangelical revivals—many were less anchored in the established structure of the national church than the traditional elites. Lange, Mollerup, Westergaard, Koch, Juhl, and Ifversen all had close ties to Blue CrossFootnote 8 and were all part of a many-faceted revivalist movement with inspiration from the UK and the USA. While Lutheran by confession, this group touted ideas from Christian Socialism, the Holiness Movement, and Methodism.

The Evangelical Alliance first brought the Holiness ideas to Denmark when they held their eighth World Conference in Copenhagen in 1884 (Olesen, 1996, 231). The alliance did not survive for long in Denmark, but the ideas they brought with them resonated greatly in revivalist circles, and Mollerup (Fig. 10.6) became leader of the Danish branch. Very briefly described, Holiness ideas are about the possibility for people to improve themselves by accepting the Christian message. In this way, a sanctification in this life is possible, and one can leave the sinful “old Adam” behind and live a life approaching perfection. This line of thought can be traced back to count Zinzendorf (1700–1760), associated with the Moravian revival, as well as founder of Methodism John Wesley: “Exactly as we are justified by faith, so are we sanctified by faith” (Wesley, 2013, p. 236).

Fig. 10.6
figure 6

Mollerup’s EGO network

Since Jesus had bled on the cross for all humanity, grace was universally available, sin had already been taken away, and man had only to embrace what had already happened—he was free to choose not to sin. Some used the phrase “Christian perfection” and counted the days since they left behind their old being and stopped sinning, while others talked more subtly about “liberation” from sin rather than total freedom. For the adherent of this doctrine, sin ceased to be a problem.

As can be seen from the social network, the leaders of this part of the temperance movement were strongly connected to the Copenhagen branch of the Home Mission and the Church Foundation. This group represented a new generation of the Copenhagen revivalist milieu. Many of them became influenced by Holiness teachings. Archeologist and chief librarian at the Danish Royal Library, H.O. Lange (Fig. 10.7), and pastor H.P. Mollerup co-founded Danish Blue Cross as part of their religious engagement based on Holiness ideals. The latter also co-founded the Holiness-inspired Church Army in Denmark. Mollerup and Lange had picked up on the Holiness-based type of temperance work when one of the International Blue Cross leaders, Arnold Bovet, visited them in the late 1880s (Juhl, 1920, p. 6). Bovet claimed that he had been cured from his physical disability during a stay at the Holiness retreat Männedorf near Zürich (Blauenfeldt, 1924, pp. 22–31). The Blue Cross founders had also encountered the temperance movement during travels to London and other larger European cities (Eriksen, 2007; Lange, 1955a, p. 296f).

Fig. 10.7
figure 7

Lange’s EGO network

The Church Foundation in Copenhagen is another organization that unites this group. This organization was dedicated to building new churches in an expanding Copenhagen. Here, Wesleyan ideals of synods and church discipline flourished. This group (Koch, Lange, Westergaard, and two medical doctors: Friis Hansen and Ussing) engaged in a lengthy exchange of letters in a group called “Ringen” (the Ring). Lange here explicitly contrasted Wesley’s Methodism to the Danish Home Mission revivals—a comparison that was entirely in Wesley’s favor because of his superior organizing skills (Lange, 1955b, p. 68). These churches within the church were to be organized as part of the national church—at least for the time being (Bach-Nielsen & Schjørring, 2012, pp. 501–502). The idea was that the pastor and true believers in the congregation should seek out each other and together constitute an active unity that would uphold strict moral standards, combining traditional elements (the congregation) with modern elements (the association).

The urban cultural elite would, however, soon found associations outside the church. Westergaard would engage in the Christian socialist cause through the association The Association for the Promotion of the Proper use of Sundays (Foreningen til Fremme af Søndagens rette Brug)—a very direct way of using Christianity to champion worker protection.

The Blue Cross relied heavily on the associational principles of the “Anglo-Saxon” Holiness revivals. These revivals came to Protestant Europe with a burgeoning associational life that enforced the kind of moral discipline of which the conservative cultural elite were dreaming. Abstinence was widely practiced in these associations, not only in relation to alcohol, but especially in relation to the unsettled youth (YMCA) and their supposed sexual promiscuity (The White Cross) (Fleisch, 1903). These associations were both modern and traditional in the sense that the conservative revivalist cultural elite envisioned combined voluntarism, discipline, and paternalism, where individuals would publicly pledge abstinence in front of their peers under the guidance of a pastor or educated “ascetic” who would similarly sign the pledge in solidarity. The pledge was a way of publicly committing to not sinning anymore, and the problem of “sliding back” into sin was handled with techniques of probation and quarantines (see Granum-Jensen, 1979).

Summing up, the three clusters of the moral elite of the temperance movement can be characterized as organic, traditional, and revivalist, respectively.

The organic elite emerged with the economic relations of the nineteenth century: farmers and workers were gaining increasing economic and political power, and their view on the temperance question grew “organically” (Gramsci, 1989, pp. 113–116) as an interpretation of their new position. The moral elite that represented these groups couched the question in the vocabulary of the Enlightenment tradition: temperance was a matter of direct democracy and understanding how alcohol affected body and mind.

Conversely, to the traditional section of the moral elite, temperance was part of a philanthropic strategy that was based on Christian compassion and grew out of their traditional roles as managers of the moral order and shepherds of their congregation and patients in the village (Mannheim, 1940 [1923]). This is clear from the many philanthropic associations to which they are linked. Temperance was not so much a movement as a way of adapting and expanding the traditional in a capitalist and urbanized society.

The revivalist moral elite similarly aimed to alleviate a philanthropic burden. Theologians and educated laymen in Copenhagen were confronted with the new poverty and social destitution and did not find that the traditional institutions were up to the task. Instead, they saw temperance as part of a radical civil society strategy intended to “re-Christianize’ Danish society.

The Moral Elite’s Belief Frame: Disease and Values

At the turn of the century, medical science would provide a new way of understanding the causes of alcoholism. This new disease frame contributed to removing stigma from alcoholics, since alcoholism was no longer (solely) considered an individual flaw but rather an infliction that could befall anyone. It would, however, also open a door for “illiberal” and eugenic measures in the treatment of alcoholics (commitment to treatment by force and forced sterilization—the latter not known to have been exercised on the indication of alcoholism, even if the law allowed for it) (Sevelsted, 2019).

This was obviously a strong argument in the battle for prohibition and other means of combatting alcoholism. The message, however, resonated differently with the different parts of the movement, and the moral elites became instrumental in aligning the disease frame with the ideological and religious frames of the various factions.

The disease frame was introduced most forcefully by the government-appointed sobriety and alcohol commissions in 1903, 1914, 1934, and 1947. While the later commissions were mainly mandated to investigate how consumption of alcohol could be brought down through regulations, the sobriety commission of 1903 also made recommendations on the care of alcoholics (Sobriety Commission report, 1907). The commission was dominated by people from the temperance movement (Eriksen, 2007, 61). The report published in 1907 marked a change in the view of alcoholics. It stated that alcoholism could no longer be viewed as a “moral aberration,” but as a disease of the central nervous system.

The main author of the final report, medical doctor Christian Geill (Fig. 10.8), was part of the traditional temperance elite: a member of the Society for the Promotion of Sobriety, he had similar experiences with the target group as Dalhoff. He had been a physician at a mental hospital and manager of a prison. He would later become chairman of the medicolegal council that served in an advisory capacity for the eugenic-inspired marriage laws of 1922 (Koch, 2014). Like Dalhoff, he saw a close connection between alcoholism, insanity, and crime.

Fig. 10.8
figure 8

Christian Geill’s EGO network

Geill had denounced the crude Lombrosian theories of criminality as a hereditary trait but did suggest “degenerative” causes for alcoholism and its influence on crime (Geill, 1906), even if he later on proved skeptical toward the effects of sterilization on sexuality (Koch, 2000, 43f). In the 1907 report, he suggested that the state build treatment facilities for alcoholics, overseen by doctors working according to rational medical principles (Sobriety Commission report, 1907, 148–55). While no state facility was established at this time, the report did result in increased support for private facilities and the legitimacy of the view that alcoholism was an illness – as well as the success of the principle of state intervention when others (family in particular) were affected.

The disease frame resonated well with the traditional elite who, from their vantage point, could see the perceived close connection between alcoholism, crime, mental illness, “degeneration,” and other social ills. Belief frame (disease) and value frame (tradition) fit nicely with the preferred Anstalt strategy of this elite – a strategy of patronage that would give rise to and operate in specialized institutions.

The organic elite of the social-liberal camp around Danmarks Afholdsforening would also subscribe to the widely accepted theory of degeneration. Trier referred to the degenerative effects of alcohol on the generations to come (Trier, 1902b, p. 552). He further stated that “(…) the laws of degeneration leave the children [of the drunk] with weaker bodies and less power of resistance towards the challenges of life than other children” (Trier, 1892, p. 361). As already mentioned above, this did not lead him to promote legal incapacitation as a means to combat alcoholism. Enlightenment was the preferred method.

An influential voice, but nonetheless an outlier, should be mentioned: Carl Ottosen (Fig. 10.9) who combines aspects of organic and cultural elite features. He grew up in Hjørring, in the heart of the stronghold of the largely secular Danish Abstinence Association. Initially, he sought a “good rural” profession—veterinarian—but eventually decided to become a medical doctor. He was then “awakened” as while studying under the Seventh-day Adventist J.H. Kellogg at The Battle Creek Sanatorium, Michigan. As a Seventh-day Adventist, Ottosen was a vegetarian, and he became the driving force behind the building of several sanatoriums in Denmark. Ottosen would go on to become chairman of The Danish Abstinence Association.

Fig. 10.9
figure 9

Ottosen’s EGO network

The Seventh-day Adventist church belongs to the branch of Reformed (Calvinist) Protestantism where Holiness ideas flourish, which in many cases has led to a belief in the healing powers of faith. The more radical believed in the power of faith and the Holy Spirit to cure diseases; this intuition was also present in the less radical forms, such as faith’s ability to heal social illnesses and individual sinful habits (Olesen, 1996, pp. 221–224; 243–252). Judging from his writings, Ottosen does not seem to have been especially radical in this respect. Maybe this was why he did not choose Blue Cross—or maybe because religious “leftists” were excluded from holding leadership positions in Blue Cross. His popular book The Road to Health (Vejen til Sundhed) also mentions the theory of degeneration as one of the regrettable effects on children and society (Ottosen, 1909, p. 265), but as the leading physician at a sanatorium and a key figure in the sanatorium movement, he focuses on the harmful effects of alcoholism on the metabolism and nervous system. The disease frame here becomes part of an avant la lettre “new age” frame that emphasizes (with reference to American Pragmatist William James, among others) the close connection between body and mind. Alcohol and coffee should be avoided as stimulants because they affect the metabolism and nervous system negatively, while baths are stimulants that contribute positively to a healthy life. Through suggestion, the mind is able to influence the body—provoke vomiting and pain relief through placebo, just as facial blushing could be caused by emotional as well as physical stimulation (Ottosen, 1909, pp. 14–17).

Overall, the disease frame was integrated into the organic elite’s Enlightenment values: popular rule, rule by law, and education were the preferred means of combatting alcohol consumption.

The disease frame resonated in other ways with the revivalist elite, namely, through the Holiness teachings, but also through the method of finding analogies between Biblical passages and the new heredity science. Harald Westergaard (1853–1936) (Fig. 10.10), renowned political economist and co-founder of Danish Blue Cross, argued that “it is surely a sign of the times when even national economists who are far removed from Christianity wish for a return of the times when belief in God was alive in the population and along with it resistance to disease and suffering (…)” (Westergaard, 1885, p. 15). As mentioned, the Swiss founder of the international Blue Cross believed that faith had cured his physical impairment.

Fig. 10.10
figure 10

Harald Westergaard’s EGO network

Not only magical but also analogical thinking aligned conservative revivalism and science. While the conservative cultural elite that dominated the organization was generally skeptical of the role of science in religious and moral matters—and especially opposed the new liberal theology—they did find a way to reconcile faith and science in this matter. On the one hand, they continued to claim that science and faith each had their separate domain and that one could not be applied to the other. On the other hand, they argued that science in this case only confirmed what the Bible had said all along. Theories of degeneration were interpreted as an elaboration of principles already known through the Bible—a general strategy that Protestants applied to accommodate scientific evidence to biblical teachings (Møller, 2000).

Westergaard, in a small pamphlet in which he publicly declares his faith, explicitly dealt with the issue of how scientific and religious insights could co-exist. Commenting on Darwin’s theory, he mentions how heredity makes itself felt everywhere in human life and creates the foundation for the modern science of sociology. However, what Darwin’s theory takes away (from a moral-Christian view of society) with one hand, it returns with the other: a Christian should never expect science to prove his (sic) faith. All one can expect from science are small indices of agreement—and these can indeed be found: “It follows from the central tenets of Darwinism that the sins of the fathers through heredity are visited on the children” (Westergaard, 1885, p. 13f). Blue Cross would follow the same line of reasoning in many of their publications: one article in the members’ magazine argued that God had put the law of heredity into human existence, and that this was actually a confirmation of Exodus 20:5: “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation” (Blue Cross, 1913). God had put the hereditary laws into nature so that misfortune would not spread (H.P. Aarestrup, 1915). This was a view that was shared and propagated by the revivalist moral elite.

Like the other parts of the moral elite, the revivalist elite accepted the disease frame and integrated it into their value frames. Bible and science supported each other—even if the exact status of the relationship varied. This only strengthened the belief that a religious awakening of the population was the best means to achieve resilience (to use an anachronistic expression) to alcoholism and other social ills.


In this chapter, I have shown how three distinct moral elites were crucial in articulating interpretive frames for the Danish temperance movement at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. By integrating insights from elite studies and the distinction of the framing approach between values and beliefs, I used SNA as well as interpretive methods to distinguish three clusters within the movement: a traditional, an organic, and a revivalist moral elite. While they all supported the temperance cause, they did so by articulating and integrating values and causal beliefs in distinct ways. The disease frame was common to all clusters. Alcoholism was believed to be a disease and have degenerative effects on generations to come, just as it was linked to other individual and social illnesses: criminality, mental illness, epilepsy, and more. Each elite cluster managed to integrate these beliefs in their respective value frames: traditional conservatism, revivalist conservatism, and Enlightenment.

While the diagnosis was thus the same, the cure varied according to beliefs: either the established moral elites should act on their faith and serve their local and national communities through treatment facilities or a theocratic civil society should emerge that would foster direct involvement of pastors, laymen, and members to enforce religious discipline and thus solve the alcohol question—or Enlightenment would prevail, and the value frames of education, direct democracy, or obedience to the laws of health would solve the problem. Each elite cluster in this way sought to amplify their values and integrate their disease belief into these values.

In the end, the temperance movement all but vanished from Danish soil. This may very well be partially explained by elite strategies. In Sweden, the temperance elite managed to make their message resonate with the ideological project that would come to dominate the twentieth century there: social democracy. In Denmark, the temperance movement never gained a firm footing within the ruling political elites. It never came to be viewed as “progressive” in the same way as in Sweden.

In 1917, a heavy tax increase on distilled spirits was enacted in Denmark, and from this point on (if not before), the movement began its steady decline. While it was successful in “drying out” some local parishes, it never managed to gather political support for a national referendum or enact a prohibition law—not to mention a transformation of society through associational Christianity. The sole successful strategy proved to be the Anstalt strategy (the treatment facility strategy) that could be integrated into the emerging welfare state. Blue Cross soon abandoned the civil society strategy of their founders and pursued a treatment strategy instead—a strategy shift that would secure their survival as effectively the sole temperance organization left in Denmark. This is a survival that has left the organization as a service provider, but still with a position from which their leaders can articulate the temperance message. In the Danish Who’s Who, only two individuals with ties to the temperance movement are represented from 2000 to 2018—both with ties to Blue Cross.

Unbeknownst to the temperance actors at the time, the long-term political “coloring” of the movement would—in part—depend on how the various moral elite clusters were able to integrate the new disease frame into their value frames. Here, the combined conservative bloc proved more successful from a purely survivalist point of view—even if it meant giving up on the radical civil society strategy envisioned by the Blue Cross founders.

Implications for the Study of Social Movements

For social movement scholars, the case study of the moral elite of the Danish temperance movement provides new paths for pursuing a research agenda that reveals how moral elites promote certain value and belief frames in social movements. Just as the field of social movement research may unwittingly have developed a blind spot regarding the role of morality in movements, so the role of movement elites in developing, amplifying, extending, etc. interpretive frames has been underappreciated. While concepts such as brokers, leaders, or entrepreneurs capture important aspects of movements and mobilization, they do not capture the fact that social movements also accumulate resources at the top of their organization, whether these be in the form of economic wealth, status, or the symbolic means to prioritize and synthesize ideological frames. Elites may also engage in movements with an eye to gaining such resources or propagating certain interpretive frames. Movement frames do not emerge from nothing; they are cultivated and spread by specific individuals. As Sophia Wathne shows in Chap. 7 of this book, such frames may emerge from the grassroots of a movement, and scholars should be mindful not to superimpose their own interpretations on activists. The study of moral elites in social movements may very well be considered the other side of the same coin: holding movement elites accountable for not deviating too far from the value frames of their members, adherents, and constituents. This is, I believe, an intention that is similar to what Sara Kalm and Anna Meeuwisse undertake in Chap. 12. While I have studied a movement that has left only modest traces in a small corner of the world, the agenda of holding movement elites accountable is valid everywhere.