The New Temperance Movement Of The 20th Century Essay

The New Temperance Movement Of The 20th Century Essay

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The middle class in the United States holds immense collective power in shaping the structure of its society. There are expectations and pressures to conform to the mainstream culture. Opposite of conformity is deviance, occurring when norms are ignored, rejected, or otherwise not followed in any way. Persons performing behaviors that fall outside of societal norms and values, as set by the middle class, are vulnerable to various forms of social control intended to reform or to ostracize when reform attempts are ineffective.
The United States has had a fascination with policing individual behavior. In The New Temperance, Wagner discussed the Temperance Movement of the 20th century, which intended to protect the widely held values of family and occupational productivity that alcohol could compromise. Clearly, the laws of the Prohibition period reflected the issues the middle class chose to emphasize as important. Although Prohibition was eventually unsuccessful, the excessive pleasure-seeking behaviors that plagued the disorderly 1960s (marijuana use, for example) called out for stricter monitoring of personal activity. These puritanical attitudes of what Wagner calls “the New Temperance” have persisted into current times and been applied to a host of new behaviors, including smoking and teenage sexual activity. After all, pleasure, as discussed in class, is defined as “not work.” The attitudes paint the portrait of the good person as abstinent and resistant to pleasurable temptations, working hard to achieve upward mobility. Upholding such an image as the ideal American citizen communicates that this person represents the norm of the country. More broadly, the United States maintains a standard of living for which all should stri...


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... the third most common offense. If drug-related actions were not labeled as deviant in the first place, these numbers would drastically reduce.
While upward mobility is in the attainable reach of much of the middle class, the same cannot be said for the lower class. The circumstances and dominant cultures of lower class members add considerable difficulty to climbing the social ladder. However, when the middle class sees undesirable results or passivity when it applies its belief that hard work will achieve success to the lower class, the result is a deviant label. Moves to control the unconventional behaviors of the lower class largely serve to hide the problems from the public eye rather than changing them, and ironically can create further forms of deviance. The cycle of control and creation of deviance will continue as long as there is the separation of classes.

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