In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Alcohol Use, Policy and Crime

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Alcohol Policy and Crime Control
  • Spatial Analyses of Alcohol and Violence
  • Theorizing Alcohol and Crime
  • Alcohol Policy and Violence

Criminology Alcohol Use, Policy and Crime
Robert Nash Parker, Kevin McCaffree
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0065


The topic of alcohol use in society is multifaceted and dynamic. Consciousness-altering substance use can be found in the archaeological record dating back to the very beginning of human societies and, indeed, the pursuit of intoxication predates humanity. Many species today other than humans indulge in a variety of behaviors intended to alter states of mind. The citations selected for this article will thus span human history and address the cultural, symbolic, and individual implications of substance use, both good and bad, in society.

General Overviews

The following citations provide a broad overview of the breadth of historical and cultural detail involved in the study of alcohol use and human experience. McGovern 2009 provides a starting point with which to consider alcohol and human history. The author’s interdisciplinary, archaeo-socio-cultural-bio-molecular analysis places human alcohol use along a continuum encompassing general primate and ancient human behavior. Marshall 1979 provides a classic and enduring journey into the varieties of cultural alcohol use. This global anthropological account highlights the complex entwinement of alcohol use and ethnicity, gender, status, and normative rules and expectations. Manheimer 2007 provides a more current, Western-focused cultural analysis of alcohol. The insight is particularly valuable as Manheimer and her contributors consider temperance movements and the politicization of alcohol’s actual and perceived effects on society and well-being. Jung 2010 contributes a very modern psychologically focused account of alcohol’s impact on the individual and society as well as current theories of alcohol and social problems and harm prevention strategies. Though Jung and his contributors are psychologically oriented, the scope is interdisciplinary and encompasses genetics-environment interactions and neurobiology among other fields. Obot and Room 2005 presents a thorough and nuanced look at modern global effects of alcohol on generally ignored low- and middle-income countries. This treatment of alcohol and society is essential in providing a scholarly understanding of developing countries and the role of alcohol in managing modernity. Robinson and Kenyon 2009 contributes to this selection with a careful analysis of the role of ethics and moral philosophy in regard to alcohol use, misuse, and regulation. Robinson and Kenyon are sensitive to the interplay between culture and political regulation against the backdrop of the World Health Organization’s attempts to disseminate and institutionalize recommended alcohol policy. Eriksson 2008, a discussion of alcohol, sex hormones, and modern human biology as they relate to aggression, is both cutting edge and incisive. This piece provides a great example of the current provocative edge of some modern alcohol-aggression research. Finally, Yalisove 2004 gives a comprehensive treatment of modern alcohol research that both introduces the field and provides a conceptual link between clinical and research worlds.

  • Eriksson, C. J. Peter. 2008. The role of alcohol and sex hormones on human aggressive behavior. In Hormones and social behavior. Edited by Donald W. Pfaff, Claude Kordon, Philippe Chanson, and Yves Christen, 177–185. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-79288-8

    Examines sex hormones (specifically testosterone, estradiol, and estrogen) and their role in aggressive behavior and how alcohol may exacerbate preexisting propensities for aggressivity. Also explores how sex hormones may mediate aggressivity.

  • Jung, John R., ed. 2010. Alcohol, other drugs, and behavior: Psychological research perspectives. Los Angeles: SAGE.

    Focus is on alcohol, with some coverage of nicotine and caffeine. Theoretical perspectives include social learning theories, personality/temperament theories, and biologically based theories. In-depth and well cited. Extensive discussion on alcohol policy and harm prevention.

  • Manheimer, Ann, ed. 2007. Alcohol. Detroit: Greenhaven.

    Broad overview of alcohol use and surrounding sociopolitical issues. Topics range from alcohol use among ancient humans to American Prohibition, to alcohol and neurobiology as they relate to health risks and benefits. Contributors vary in their academic backgrounds from artists to sociologists.

  • Marshall, Mac, ed. 1979. Beliefs, behaviors & alcoholic beverages: A cross-cultural survey. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

    Classic anthropological account of alcohol and the varying cultural rules surrounding its consumption. Cultures included in the analysis include Mexico, Trinidad, Peru, Brazil, America, Quebec, Micronesia, Melanesia, Tahiti, Samoa, Japan, Africa, and others.

  • McGovern, Patrick E. 2009. Uncorking the past: The quest for wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Cultural examination of alcohol consumption set in the context of evolutionary biology. Highlights how human consciousness, inventiveness, artistry, and feelings of transcendence have been explored and heightened (and will continue to be in the future) through the use of alcohol and through the cultural use of intoxication.

  • Obot, Isidore S., and Robin Room, eds. 2005. Alcohol, gender and drinking problems: Perspectives from low and middle income countries. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

    Dense, academically oriented, but deeply informative and nuanced. Analysis spans Africa, Asia, and Latin America and treats variations in consumption in terms of gender, power dynamics, and cultural expectations, though biological differences between men and women are acknowledged.

  • Robinson, Simon, and Alexandra J. Kenyon. 2009. Ethics in the alcohol industry. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230250581

    Careful treatment of ethical problems surrounding alcohol use and culture. Included in the analyses are examinations of advertising and marketing informational campaigns, alcohol in ceremonial and religious practices, and civic responsibility and overmedicalization, all in the context of corporate responsibility.

  • Yalisove, Daniel L. 2004. Introduction to alcohol research: Implications for treatment, prevention, and policy. Boston: Pearson.

    Presents current alcohol research from a psycho-legal perspective but also addresses alcohol’s effects on physical and cognitive functioning. Contains useful information regarding the use of alcohol by various demographic groups. Overall, an objective summation of modern research methods.

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