The media and political focus on 'binge drinking' has created a captivating spectacle of public and youthful excess that is central to the allure of the night-time economy. Consequently the alcohol consumption of the majority, and the market that promotes and services this consumption, proceeds unhindered by governmental intervention.
This is the message by academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Kent, published in the September issue of The British Journal of Sociology.
Professor Dick Hobbs, LSE, and Keith Hayward, University of Kent, use their analysis of popular programmes such as Booze Britain 2 to highlight the problematic relationship Britain has with drinking, and in particular between Government and the UK drinks industry.
In order to obtain the visceral and 'reality TV' style of reportage that Booze Britain 2 and similar programmes employ, producers must first incite the subjects to the excessive behaviour they claim to condemn. This antithetical position also epitomizes the problematic relationship between the Government and the UK drinks industry.
As with programmes like Booze Britain, which must first incite the behaviour they then condemn, the British government have embraced the night time economy while simultaneously rejecting the inevitable consequences of its liminal allure.
Professor Dick Hobbs said: 'Despite the enormous societal cost of alcohol the Government continues to value the jobs, the associated urban regeneration, and of course the £7billion pounds in taxation it derives from the industry. There is widespread international evidence linking alcohol availability to numerous social harms yet this evidence was notably absent from the government's Alcohol Strategy Document of 2001. When we consider this hypocrisy, we might also consider the ludicrous tainting of drunken kids as binge drinkers and the reluctance to reflect on the binge economy so readily embraced by successive central and local governments across Britain.'
Dr Keith Hayward said: 'There is a distinctly hypocritical attitude to booze in Britain. While public health data suggests that we as a society should be more concerned about the longer-term effects of problem drinking, public discourse inevitably focuses on the vulnerability of the youngest age groups. As with the media coverage on binge drinking, there is rarely any political discourse on the drinking habits of any group other than young denizens, or longer-term issues such as private binging, alcohol related illnesses, or the domestic violence that is often associated with alcohol related problems.'
'Beyond the Binge in "Booze Britain": market-led liminalization and the spectacle of binge-drinking' by Professor Dick Hobbs, LSE, and Keith Hayward, University of Kent, is published in the September issue of The British Journal of Sociology. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/bjos/58/3
The British Journal of Sociology
The British Journal of Sociology is published by Blackwell for LSE. For more than 50 years the journal has represented the mainstream of sociological thinking and research. Consistently ranked highly by the ISI in Sociology, this prestigious international journal publishes sociological scholarship of the highest quality on all aspects of the discipline by academics from all over the world. The British Journal of Sociology is distinguished by the commitment to excellence and scholarship one associates with its home at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
5 September 2007