Gusfield: Symbolic Crusade

Gusfield, J. 1986. (1963) "Introduction" pp. 1-12 in Symbolic Crusade. Urbana: Univ Illinois Press. (DRL)

Gusfield's book is a socio-history of the temperance (anti-alcohol) movement in the US. He shows how the fight over the legality of alcohol consumption was a proxy for economic and cultural conflict between groups — primarily the old-line Protestants who considered America to have been "our country" since its founding and newer (in mid/late 19th century) Catholic immigrant groups. The battle, he suggests, was over whose cultural rules were going to be THE rules.

  • Economic/class conflict vs. cultural conflict.
  • Consensus about fundamentals…has left a political vacuum which moral issues have partially filled.” 2
  • Attempt of “moral people” to correct the behavior of “immoral people”
  • The quality of “disinterested reform” (economically so) is the analytical focus
  • What does the sociologist study? The process.
  • Moral reform cultural groups preserve defend enhance dominance and prestige of its style of living
  • VIP (4) context shifts. Real value of hyper-individualism decreases. Cultural groups that had prized it lose grip. Material utility of abstinence decreases and hence symbolic utility too.
  • Law as settling controversies between clashing cultures.
    • E.g., passage of hatecrime legislation.
  • Enhance/degrade esteem of group culture. Compare Garfinkel.
  • Today: green movements. Al Gore. Global Warming.
  • 1840s pressure on immigrants (cf. Learn English!)