The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking-Driving and the Symbolic Order
by Joseph R. Gusfield
University of Chicago Press, 1980 Cloth: 978-0-226-31093-0 | Paper: 978-0-226-31094-7
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ABOUT THIS BOOK
"Everyone knows 'drunk driving' is a 'serious' offense. And yet, everyone knows lots of 'drunk drivers' who don't get involved in accidents, don't get caught by the police, and manage to compensate adequately for their 'drunken disability.' Everyone also knows of 'drunk drivers' who have been arrested and gotten off easy. Gusfield's book dissects the conventional wisdom about 'drinking-driving' and examines the paradox of a 'serious' offense that is usually treated lightly by the judiciary and rarely carries social stigma."—Mac Marshall, Social Science and Medicine
"A sophisticated and thoughtful critic. . . . Gusfield argues that the 'myth of the killer drunk' is a creation of the 'public culture of law.' . . . Through its dramatic development and condemnation of the anti-social character of the drinking-driver, the public law strengthens the illusion of moral consensus in American society and celebrates the virtues of a sober and orderly world."—James D. Orcutt, Sociology and Social Research
"Joseph Gusfield denies neither the role of alcohol in highway accidents nor the need to do something about it. His point is that the research we conduct on drinking-driving and the laws we make to inhibit it tells us more about our moral order than about the effects of drinking-driving itself. Many will object to this conclusion, but none can ignore it. Indeed, the book will put many scientific and legal experts on the defensive as they face Gusfield's massive erudition, pointed analysis and criticism, and powerful argumentation. In The Culture of Public Problems, Gusfield presents the experts, and us, with a masterpiece of sociological reasoning."—Barry Schwartz, American Journal of Sociology
This book is truly an outstanding achievement. . . . It is sociology of science, sociology of law, sociology of deviance, and sociology of knowledge. Sociologists generally should find the book of great theoretical interest, and it should stimulate personal reflection on their assumptions about science and the kind of consciousness it creates. They will also find that the book is a delight to read."—William B. Bankston, Social Forces
Joseph Gusfield is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. The Culture of Public Problems was awarded the Charles Horton Cooley Award for 1983 by the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. Professor Gusfield's other books include Kenneth Burke: On Symbols and Society, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface and Acknowledgments 1. Introduction: The Culture of Public Problems The Construction of Social Problems: How Phenomena Become Real The Public Character of Social Problems The Structure of Public Problems The Ownership of Public Problems Responsibility: Causal and Political The Cultural Perspective toward Public Actions The Illusions of Authority The Artful Realm of the Public Part One - Rhetoric and Science: Creating Cognitive Order 2. The Organization of Public Consciousness Conceptual Framework: The Structure of Accident Consciousness The Organization of Knowledge Multiple Frameworks and Alternative Consciousness Accident, Risk, and Certainty 3. The Fiction and Drama of Public Reality Creating the Drinking Driver Fiction as the Shape of Fact Ten Million Alcoholics: The Social History of a Dramatic Fact The "State of the Art" in Drinking-Driving Research The Isometric Fiction: Blood-Alcohol Levels The Universalistic Fiction: Collecting Data The Fiction of Association: Alcohol Involvement Knowledge and Authority: The Ring of Conviction The Dramatic Significance of Fact The Moral Drama of the Drinking-Driver 4. The Literary Art of Science: Comedy and Pathos In Drinking-Driver Research Prologue Act I. Scientific Style: The Rhetoric of Method Act II. Literary Act: The Rhetoric of Substance Act III: The Rhetoric of Social Hierarchies Part Two - The Ritual of Law: Creating a Moral Order 5. Law as Public Culture The Criminal Metaphor and the Ambiguity of Traffic Law The Utilitarian Metaphor in American Law Traffic Offenses and DUIA: Ordinary Violations and Crimes Law, Alcohol, and Traffic Policy The Ambiguity of Drinking-Driving: Fault without Censure The Legal Style as Public Culture 6. The Legal Myth of Social Order Alcohol, Control, and Release in American Life The Myth of the "Killer-Drunk" The Theory of Accidents and the Drama of Drinking-Driving The Symbolism of Order and Disorder Law as Negotiated Social Order The Two Levels of Social Order Conclusions 7. The Drama of Public Action The Cultural Drama of Drinking and Driving The Public Drama The Cultural Autonomy of Legal Acts Watergate: An Example of Public Drama 8. The Perspective of Sociological Irony The Ironic Stance Sociological Irony: Utopian and Olympian Science and Politics Notes References Index
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