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Testing the symbolic properties of alcohol prohibition in Hermann, MO

Crime, Law and Social Change

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Gusfield (1963) describes constitutional prohibition as symbolically representing status and not concerned with social control. The importance of this perspective for the prohibition of alcohol rests in the rural, Protestant, native segments of the United States symbolically demonstrating their values publicly through law over that of the urban, Catholic, immigrants. This case study tests the symbolic properties of constitutional prohibition through an analysis of the small German-American, rural, winemaking community of Hermann, MO. I analyze Hermann’s major English newspaper, the Advertiser-Courier, during two time periods: 1908 to 1911 and 1918 to 1921 to understand the changes in legislative reform and the importance of the social environment for each time period. In order to demonstrate the limitations of a strictly symbolic understanding of constitutional prohibition through Gusfield’s (1963) status politics paradigm, I utilize the theoretical tools of structural foundations and triggering events (Galliher (1980) 2012) to assess the social origins of prohibition legislation in Missouri. This perspective further demonstrates the instrumental aspects of social control involved during the passage of this law.