Reducing Discursive Complexity: The Case of Alcohol Policies in Europe (1850–2000)

  • B. Lucas


Since the end of 19th century, alcohol policies have passed through three main phases: in all the western European countries, the interpretation shifted from moral redemption and public order to medical concern and, more recently, risk prevention. This evolution of alcohol discourse can be understood as a process of reduction of discursive complexity, i.e. articulation of some elements and exclusion of others. This process can be related to the changing place and role of the state in the welfare system: keeping social order in a minimal intervention logic, then providing reparation of damages in a centralised and planned way, and finally, promoting public health through the creation and co-ordination of policies networks. In order to illustrate that point, the first part of the paper describes the diffusion of temperance discourse at the turn of the century and the elaboration of the first political frame (1830–1930). In the second part, we discuss the way the disease model became hegemonic and resisted to challenging interpretations (1930–1975). In the third part, we observe the coming out of the public health model and the opening of a new discursive conflict (1975–1990); more recently (from the 1990s), we may see a redefinition of discourses and coalitions around the new concept of harm reduction. From the liberal state of the 19th century to the contemporary “network society”, still one question remains: does the policy making institutions and the democratic claims really support a more opened discursive space?

Key words

alcohol policy discourse analysis welfare state comparative history European countries 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armyr, G., Elmer A. & U. Herz (1982). Alcohol in the world of the 80 s. Habits, attitudes, preventive policies and voluntary efforts. Stockholm: Solber Förlags AB.Google Scholar
  2. Ashford, Douglas E. (1986). The Emergence of the Welfare States. Oxford: New-York, Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Baumohl, J. & R. Room (1987). “Inebriety, Doctors and the State: Alcoholism Treatment Institutions before 1940”, in Marc Galanter (ed.), Recent Developments in Alcoholism. Vol. 5, New-York: Plenum, 135–174.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, Ulrich (1994). Risk Society. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  5. Berridge, Virginia (1996). “Research and Policy: What Determines the Relationship?”, Policy Studies, 17 (1), 23–34.Google Scholar
  6. Berridge, Virginia (1993). “The nature of the target disorder: an historical perspective”, in G. Edwards and al. Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco: Making the Science and Policy Connections. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 179–186.Google Scholar
  7. Berridge, Virginia (1992). “Alcool et drogue en Grande Bretagne: histoire et politique”, in Alain Ehrenberg (ed). Drogues, politique et société. Paris: Descartes.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, Pierre (2000). Propos sur le champs politique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Lyon.Google Scholar
  9. Bruun, Kettil et al. (1975). Alcohol Control Policies in Public Health Perspective. FORSA, Fondation finlandaise pour ľétude de ľalcoolisme, Vol. 25.Google Scholar
  10. Bruun, Kettil (1971). “Finland: the non medical approach”, in L. G. Kiloh and D.S Bell (eds). 29th International Congress on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance, Sydney, Australia, February 1970. Australisa, Butterwoths, 545–559.Google Scholar
  11. Busch, Andreas & Dietmar Braun (1999). “Why ideas matter: A theorical starting point”, in Braun, D. & Busch A. (eds). Public Policy and Political Ideas. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1–7.Google Scholar
  12. Bütschi, Danielle et Sandro Cattacin (1994). Le modèle suisse du bien-être. Coopération conflictuelle entre Etat et société. Le cas de ľalcoolisme et du vih/sida. Lausanne: Réalités sociales.Google Scholar
  13. Bynum, W. F. (1984) “Alcoholisme and degeneration”, in 19th Century European Medicine and Psychiatry, British Journal of Addiction, 79, 59–70.Google Scholar
  14. Castel, Robert (1995). Les métamorphoses de la question sociale. Paris: Folio, Essais.Google Scholar
  15. Cattacin Sandro et Barbara Lucas (1999) “Autorégulation, intervention étatique, mise en réseau: les transformations de ľEtat social en Europe”, Revue Franèaise de Science Politique, 49 (3), 379–398.Google Scholar
  16. Cattacin, Sandro (1996). “Organiser les solidarités”, in Marc-Henry Soulet (éd.). Crise et recomposition des solidarités. Fribourg: Presses Universitaires, 147–171.Google Scholar
  17. Cattacin, Sandro, Barbara Lucas & Sandra Vetter (1996). Modèles de politique en matière de drogue. Paris: ľHarmattan.Google Scholar
  18. Communica (1995). Publication trimestrielle de la Régie Fédérale des Alcool, Berne, 2.Google Scholar
  19. Conrad, Peter & Joseph Schneider (1980). Deviance and Medicalization. From Badness to Sickness. St Louis: the CV Mosby CompanyGoogle Scholar
  20. Cottino, Amadeo (1985) “Science and class structure: notes on the formation of the alcohol question in Italy (1860–1920)”, Contempory Crises, 9, 45–53.Google Scholar
  21. Cottino A., Morgan P. (1987). “Italie”, in Marcus GRANT (sous la dir. de). La lutte contre ľalcoolisme. OMS, Publications régionales, Série européenne 18, 89–97Google Scholar
  22. Crozier, Michel, S. Huntington & J. Watanuki (1975). The Crisis of Democracies, Report on the Governability of Democracies. New York: University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Donati, Pierpaolo (1991). Teoria relazionale delle societá. [Relational Theory of Society]. Milano, Angeli.Google Scholar
  24. Donzelot, Jacques (1994). ľEtat animateur. Paris, Esprit.Google Scholar
  25. Edwards, Griffith & al. (1995). Alcohol Policy and the Public Good. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Eisenbach-Strangl, Ingmar (1992). “Treatment-Seeking and Treatment Reluctant Alcoolics: A Two-Class Treatment System iun Austria”, in H. Klingemann et al. (eds). Cure, care or control. Alcoholism treatment in sixteen countrie. State University of New York Press, 173–189.Google Scholar
  27. Engel, Georges (1977). “The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedine”, Science, 196, 129–136.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Entreprise et Prévention (1993) La loi Evin. Premier bilan. Entreprise et prévention, Paris.Google Scholar
  29. Esping-Andersen, Gösta (1996). Welfare Sates in Transition. National Adaptation in Global Economies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Eurocare (1995). Contrebalancing the drink industry. CambrideshireGoogle Scholar
  31. Evers, Adalbert (1990). “Shifts in the Welfare Mix — Introducing a New Approach for the Study of transformations in Welfare and Social Policy”, in: Adalbert Evers et Helmut Wintersberger (éd.), Shifts in the Welfare Mix. Frankfurt am Main/Boulder, Colorado: Campus/Westview, 7–29.Google Scholar
  32. Ewald, Franèois (1996). Histoire de ľEtat Providence. Paris: Grasset, Poche Essais.Google Scholar
  33. Ewald, Franèois (1986). ľEtat-providence. Paris: Grasset.Google Scholar
  34. Fauré, Alain, Pollet Gilles & Philippe WARIN (1995). La construction du sens dans les politiques publiques. Débats autour de la notion de référentiel. [The construction of meaning in public policy: Debates about the concept of referentiel]. Paris, ľHarmattan, Logiques Politiques.Google Scholar
  35. Fischer, Frank et John Forester (eds.) (1993). The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning. London: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Fraser, Nancy (1997). Justice Interruptus. Critical Reflexion on the Postsocialist Condition. New-York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Freiburghaus, Dieter (1991). “Le développement des moyens ďaction étatiques”, in Charles-Albert Morand, ĽEtat propulsif, Paris: Publisud, 49–64.Google Scholar
  38. Gerhardt, Ute (1991). Gesellschaft und Gesundheit, Begründung der Medizinsociologie. Francfort: SuhrkampGoogle Scholar
  39. Giesbrecht, N., Greenfield, Thomas K. & Ann Kaskutas (1995). “Assessing and interpreting emerging development in alcohol policy in Canada and the United States: suggestions for future research”, paper presented at the 21th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium, Porto.Google Scholar
  40. Giles G. J. (1995). “Are Alcoholic beverages the cause of alcoholism? Degeneracy and the paradigm of the Alcoholic in Germany, 1990–1945”, paper presented at the 21th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium, Porto.Google Scholar
  41. Groupe ďAmsterdam (1993). Les boissons alcoolisée et la société européenne.Google Scholar
  42. Gusfield, Joseph R. (1996). Contested meanings. The construction of Alcohol Problems. Madison: The University of Winsconsin Press.Google Scholar
  43. Gusfield, Joseph R. (1967). “Moral passage: The symbolic process in public designations of deviance”, Social Problems, 15, 175–183.Google Scholar
  44. Gusfield, Joseph R. (1963). Symbolic crusade: Statuts politics and the American temperance movement. Urbana, University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  45. Hass, Peter (1992). “Introduction:epistemic communities and international policy coodination”, International Organization, 46 (1), 1–35.Google Scholar
  46. Habermas, Jürgen (1985). “Die Krise des Wohlfahrtsstaates und die Erschöpfung utopischer Energien”, in Jürgen HABERMAS. Die Neue Unübersichtlichkeit. Frankfurt M: Suhrkamp, 141–163.Google Scholar
  47. Habermas, Jürgen (1981). Théorie de ľagir communicationnel. Paris, Fayard.Google Scholar
  48. Hajer Maarten A. (2003). “A Frame in the Field. Policy Making and the Reinvention of Politics”, in M. A Hajer and H. Wagenaar (eds.), Deliberative Policy Analysis. Understanding Governance in the Network Society. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Hajer Maarten A. (1997). The Politics of Environmental Discourse. Oxford, Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  50. Hall, Peter. A (1993) “Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State. The case of Economic Policymaking in Britain”, Comparative Politics, 3 (25), 275–296.Google Scholar
  51. Heath Dwight B. (2002). “Drinking patterns: an important (qualitative?) complement to epidemiological research for practical use”, paper presented at the at the 28th Annual Meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society Social and Epidemiolgical Research on Alcohol, Paris, France, June.Google Scholar
  52. Holder, Harold, D. (1994) “Public Health Approach to the Reduction of Alcohol Problems”, Substance Abuse, vol 15 (2), 123–138.Google Scholar
  53. Holder, Harold D., Kuhlhorn, Eckart, Nordlund, Sturla, Österberg, Esa, Romelsijlö Ander & Trygve Ugland (1998). European Integration and Nordic Alcohol Policie. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  54. Howarth, David (2000). Discourse. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  55. I.C.A.P. (1999). Scholar
  56. Jellinek, E. M. (1952) “Phases of Alcohol Addiction”, Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 13 (4), 673–684.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Jenson, Jane (1989). “Paradigms and Political Discourse: Protective Legislation in France and the United States Before 1914”, Canadian Journal of Political Science, XXII, 2, 235–258.Google Scholar
  58. Jobert, Bruno (éd.) (1994). Le tournant néo-libéral en Europe. Idées et recettes dans les pratiques gouvernementales. Paris: ľHarmattan.Google Scholar
  59. Jobert, Bruno et Pierre Muller (1987). ľEtat en action. Politiques publiques et corporatisme. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  60. Katcher, Brian S. (1993). “The post-repeal eclipse in knowledge about the harmful effect of alcohol”, Addiction, 88, 729–744.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Kenis Patrick et Volker Schneider (1991). Policy Netwotks and Policy Analysis. Scrutinizing a New Analytical Toolbox”, in Bernd Marin (ed.). Policy networks: empirical evidence and theoretical considerations. Kéln: Max-Plack Institut füt GesellshaftforshungGoogle Scholar
  62. Kiissling-Naef Ingrid et Sandro Cattacin (1997). “Introduction: Agir étatique subsidiaire dans les sociétés modernes”, Revue Suisse de Science Politique 3 (3), 17–33.Google Scholar
  63. Laclau, Ernesto et Chantal Mouffe (1985). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Toward a Radical Democratic Politics. London, New-York: Verso.Google Scholar
  64. Lee Bacci, Carole (1999). Women, Policy and Politics. The construction of policy problems. London, Sage publication.Google Scholar
  65. Lemmens, Paul (1997). “Buying Research”, Addiction, 92 (9), 1077–1079CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Levine H. G. (1978). “The discovery of Addiction”, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, vol. 39, (1), 143–174.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Levine H. G. (1984). “The Alcohol Problem in America: from Temperance to Alcoholism”, British Journal of Addiction, 79, 109–119.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Lewis Jenny, M. (1999). “The Durabiliy of Ideas in Health Policy Making”, in Braun, D. & Busch A. (eds). Public Policy and Political Ideas. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 152–167.Google Scholar
  69. Lukes, Steven (1973). Power. A Radical View. London: Mac Millan PressGoogle Scholar
  70. Luhmann, Niklas. (1982). The Differentiation of Society. New York, Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Makela, Klaus & al. (1996). Alcoholics Anonymous as a Mutual Help Movement. A Study in Eight Societies. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  72. Makela, Klaus, Robin Room, Eric Single, Pekka Sulkunen, Brendan Walsh (éd), (1981). Alcohol, Society and the State, Vol. 1: a Comparative Study of Alcohol Control. Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation.Google Scholar
  73. Marin, Bernd (1991). “What is “Half-Knowledge” Sufficient to Know For — and When? Theoretical Comment on Policymakers— Uses of Social Science”, Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization 3(1), 34–60Google Scholar
  74. Mosher, James F. et Jernigan, David H. (1989). “New direction in alcohol policy”, Annual Review of Public Health, 10, 245–279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Mitchell Allan (1987). “The unsung villain: alcoholism and the emergence of public welfare in France, 1870-1914”, Contemporary Drug Problems, XII, 3, 447–471.Google Scholar
  76. Mosher J. F., et D. H. Jernigan (1989). “New Direction in Alcohol Policy”, Annual Review of Public Health, 10, 245–279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Moran, Charles-Albert (2000). Le droit néo-moderne des politiques publiques. Paris: LGDJ.Google Scholar
  78. Morand, Charles-Albert (1991). L’Etat propulsif. Paris: Publisud.Google Scholar
  79. Muller, Pierre & Yves Surel (1998). L’analyse des politiques publiques. [public policy analysis] Paris: Montchrestien, Clefs Politiques.Google Scholar
  80. Nozick, Robert (1974). Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  81. O’Connor, J. (1973). The Fiscal Crisis of the State. New York, St Martin Press.Google Scholar
  82. Offe Klaus (1997). “Les nouveaux mouvements sociaux: un défi aux limites de la politique institutionnelle”, in Klaus Offe, Les démocraties modernes à l’épreuves. Paris: L’Harmattan, logiques sociales, 98–132.Google Scholar
  83. OMS (1993). European Alcohol Action Plan, Regional Office for Europe, Copenhague.Google Scholar
  84. Papadopoulos, Yannis (1995). Complexité sociale et politiques publiques. Paris: Montchestien.Google Scholar
  85. Petersen, Alan and Debohra Lupton (1996). The new public Health. Health and self in the age of risk. Sydney: Sage.Google Scholar
  86. Pierson, Paul (1994). Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Tatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Polanyi, Karl (1983). La grande transformation. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  88. Rae J. (1993). “The case for Collaboration”, Addiction, 88, 11–12.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  89. Rawls, John (1993). Justice et démocratie. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  90. Rehm, J. and al. (1996).“On the emerging paradigm of Drinkin Pattern and their social and health consequences”, Addiction, 91, 1615–1622PubMedGoogle Scholar
  91. Roberts, James S. (1985). “Alcohol, public policy and the Left: the socialist debate in early twentieth century Europe”, Contemporary Drug Problems, XIII (2), 309–330.Google Scholar
  92. Roberts, James S. (1984). Drink, Temperance and the Working Clas in Nineteeth-Century Germany. Boston: George Allan & Unwin.Google Scholar
  93. Rosenqvist P. & J.P. Takala (1985). “Two experiences with lay board: the emergence of state organised treatment for alcoholic in Sweden and Finland”, paper presented at the 31th International Institute on the Prevention and Treatment of Alcoholism, Rome.Google Scholar
  94. Rosanvallon, Pierre (1989). Le liberalisme économique. Histoire de l’idée de marché. Paris: Seuil, Point.Google Scholar
  95. Rosanvallon, Pierre (1981). La crise de ľEtat-providence. Paris: Seuil, Essais.Google Scholar
  96. Room, Robin (1999). “Governing Images in Public Discourse about Problematic Drinking”, paper presented at the NAD Symposium, Knowledge and Expertise in Alcohol and Drug Policy, Bergen, Norway, 23–25 septembre 1999.Google Scholar
  97. Room, Robin (1998). “Controlled drinking as a moral achievement and a social program”, paper presented at the conference Alcohol Policy and the Welfare State in Consumer Society”, Lillehammer, Norway, 14-18 january 1998.Google Scholar
  98. Room, Robin (1996). “The cultural framing of addiction”, paper presented at a conference on Addiction and Culture, Claremont Graduate School.Google Scholar
  99. Room, Robin (1983). “Sociological Asopect of the Disease Concept of Alcoholism”, Research Advance in Alcohol and Drug Problems, vol 7, New York and London: Plenum Press, 47–91.Google Scholar
  100. Rush B. (1872). Sermon to gentlemen upon temperance. PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  101. Sabatier, Paul (1998). “The Advocacy Coalition Framework: Revision and Relevance for Europe”. Journal of European Public Policy, 5, (1), 98–130.Google Scholar
  102. Sabatier, P. A & H. C. Jenkins-Smith (eds.) (1993). Policy Change and Learning. Boulder, Welstview.Google Scholar
  103. Schneider, Volker (1992). “The structure of policy networks”, European Journal of Political Research, 21, 109–129.Google Scholar
  104. Spode H. (1997). “From the brandy plague” to the alcohol question”: emergence and victory of the paradigm of alcoholism in central Europe. 18th until early XXth century”. Paper presented at the 21th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium, Porto.Google Scholar
  105. Stockwell T., Single E., Hawks D & J. Rehm (1997). “Sharpening the focus of alcohol policy from aggregate consumption to harm and risk reduction”, Addiction Research, 5(1), 1–9.Google Scholar
  106. Sulkunen, Pekka, Sutton, Caroline, Tirgestedt, Christoffer & Katariina Warpenius (2000). Broken Spirits. Power and Ideas in Nordic Alcohol Control. Helsinki: NAD Publication N 39.Google Scholar
  107. Sulkunen, Pekka & Katariina Warpenius (2000). “Reforming the self and the other: the temperance movement and the duality of modern subjectivity”, Critical Public Health, 10(4), 421–438.Google Scholar
  108. Weir R. B. (1984). “Obsessed with moderation: the drink trades and the drink question (1870-1930)”. Britsh Journal of Addiction, 79, pp: 93–107.Google Scholar
  109. Willke, Helmut (1991). “Trois types de structures juridiques prgrammes conditionnels, programmes finalisés et programmes relationnels”, in Charles-Albert Morand, L’Etat propulsif. Paris: Publisud, 65–80.Google Scholar
  110. Willke, Helmut (1992). Ironie des Staates. [Irony of State]. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Lucas
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of GenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.IEPI, University of LausanneSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations