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A Review On The New Temperance - The American Obsession With Sin And Vice, By David Wagner


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General subject matter: repression of pleasure in America and the constant mantra of danger.

Theme: a compelling historical and sociological and philosophical analysis of the American infatuation with sin and immorality.

Thesis: the author reasons The New Temperance as a strategy to serve social class interests and popular social movement.

About author: DAVID WAGNER is associate professor of social work and sociology, at the University of Southern Maine. He had a chapter titled “Reinterpreting the ‘Undeserving Poor', Fro Pathology to Resistance" in a recently published collection “International Perspectives on Homelessness" (Greenwood Press). His recent book, “The New Temperance", was the subject of a column in the Boston Globe, as well reviews in The Texas Observer and Maine Times.

Book's quality:

The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1984.

There are no special features such as pictures or maps, color plates, etc in this book. The book has an attractive cover which more or less conveys the content of the book. This book is a good one for who m are interested in socio-cultural issues especially in American studies.

Author's purpose: David Wagner entitled the “New Temperance" for the war on drugs, fight smoking cigarettes, controlling what children watch on TV, censoring the internet and constant warnings about food and lectures about teen sex.

"Although the obsession with personal behavior in America over the last two decades has sharply reversed the liberatory trend of the 1960s and early 1970s, The New Temperance argues that this behavior parallels rather closely the nineteenth century and early twentieth century social movements such as the Temperance, Social Purity, and Vice and Vigilance movements".

"The New Temperance questions the constant mantra in the media and in political debates about the dangers of personal behavior and challenges America's love affair with repression. Drawing on historical, sociological, and philosophical sources, the author argues the New Temperance is a strategy serving state and dominant social class interest as well as a popular social movement that develops consensual coalition between traditionally identified elements of the Right and Left".
Several well-written books with different point of views tried to reveal to the public and policy makers the absolute uselessness of the Substance of Prohibition.

Generally, this book tries to explore American behaviors within last decades. In David Wagner's book, we are given a forcible historical and sociological analysis of “The American Obsession with Sin and Vice" and at the end that we will understand the present Prohibition in relation with the nature of American tradition, religion, politics. It discusses how abnormal behaviors were accepted by Americans, and for answering this question writer backs to the past to review social movements, which one of them is the New Temperance and gives us a historical perspective on it. Professor Wagner studies the reasons and deep roots of the repression of pleasure of certain personal behaviors in America, from 19th c Temperance and “social purity" movements to the 21thc. Regarding these movements he examines how American media and political elites dealt with American behaviors. At the end, we will see how social conservatism resulted in sever crisis in social class reproduction and how political parties approached the New Temperance.

The New Temperance: The American Obsession with Sin and Vice, by David Wagner.
Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1997, ISBN 0-81333-2568-4(hc). £22.99

By Robabe Sarikhani


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