Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Binge Drinkers’: Folk devils of the binge economy

17.06.2005


An extraordinary amount of media attention focuses on alcohol consumption and its impact on public order and health. But as Professor Dick Hobbs shows in ESRC’s new report Seven Deadly Sins, while ‘binge drinking’ youths dominate the headlines, it is older drinkers that are most likely to succumb to alcohol-related death.



What’s more, Professor Hobbs argues, it is the logic of the market and not the logic derived from careful data analysis that informs government policy on alcohol. As a society, we embrace the ‘night-time economy’ – and the jobs, urban regeneration and taxation that the industry generates – while seeking to punish the routine transgressions of its primary consumers.

Hobbs notes that the term ‘binge drinking’ is rarely used to describe the drinking habits of anyone other than young denizens of the night-time economy. Binge drinking is seldom linked with alcohol-related diseases, with accidents in the home or with domestic violence. Indeed, since publication of the government’s alcohol strategy, where a binge drinker is described as someone who drinks to get drunk, the term has become a remarkably pliant device to implicate individuals perhaps more accurately described as ‘young people drunk and disorderly in public places’.


As such, binge drinkers are indispensable folk devils. They are noisy, urinate in public and violent. This brings them into conflict with an undermanned police force, which can be depicted on most nights of the week wrestling heroically with foul-mouthed, vomit-stained youths in an attempt to restore the city centre to daytime levels of comportment.

Despite alcohol being our drug of choice, the source is not typically regarded as a problem. Alcohol is a legal drug and so there are no attempts to bring down the ‘Mr Bigs’ of the alcohol industry. Indeed, the main dealers are ensconced with the police and politicians in crime reduction committees and urban regeneration partnerships.

Until the 2001 general election campaign, there was a general reluctance on behalf of government agencies to acknowledge problems related to the night-time economy. But Labour’s campaign that year coincided with new figures on alcohol-related assaults uncovered by the British Crime Survey, which indicated that teenage males who frequently visit pubs and clubs and drink heavily are most at risk from violent assault.

Yet government statements about the night-time economy remain guarded in relation to links with violence. This reluctance needs to be understood in the context of investment in the night-time economy running at £1 billion a year and growing at an annual rate of 10%, with the turnover of the pub and club industry constituting 3% of GDP, numbers of licensed premises having increased by over 30% during the past 25 years and the sector employing around one million people, creating ‘one in five of all new jobs‘.

The night-time economy has had a transformative influence on UK cities, and is part of our society’s shift from industrial to post-industrial economic development. Successive governments have embraced this new economy as an alternative to the nation’s increasingly decrepit manufacturing base, and proud city centre shrines to our industrial past have been revitalised by shiny outlets for alcohol consumption.

The numbers of young people flocking into these new centres of alcohol consumption are unprecedented. For example, in 1997, the licence capacity of Nottingham’s tiny city centre was 61,000: by 2004, that had risen to 108,000, while Manchester city centre has a stunning capacity of 250,000.

The Labour Party signalled its intention to embrace the night-time economy during the 1997 general election, when they solicited the student vote with text messages that read: ‘Cldnt gve a XXXX 4 lst ordrs? Thn vte Labr on thrsday 4 extra time’.

As the new decade progressed, the real story behind the ’24-hour society’ began to emerge, and the concentration of huge numbers of young alcohol consumers has created environments where aggressive hedonism and disorder is the norm.

But rather than reject a major facet of their own economic policies, and recognise the night-time economy as a criminogenic zone that was having a negative impact on their own crime and social order targets, official discussion has focused on the problematic consumer in the ‘tired and emotional’ shape of the binge drinker.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party’s infamous text message has been operationalised in the form of revolutionary changes in the nation’s licensing laws. But the entire research community was opposed to the Act, citing evidence that to have an impact on alcohol-related harm, it is vital to reduce consumption by imposing more extensive controls rather than fewer. Yet despite its insistence on ‘evidence-based’ policy-making, the government’s agenda of liberalisation of the retailing of alcohol continues unabated.

Becky Gammon | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>