There’s more to alcohol than getting pissed but you’d never know it from the papers. In a period of public hand wringing over ‘binge drinking culture’, our understanding of the ‘culture bit’ usually merits no more than an admission that people do it in groups and this is often implicit in the work of psychologists.
In a recent Psychological Bulletin review on the determinants of binge drinking, psychologists Kelly Courtney and John Polich devote only a few sparse paragraphs to the social issues in an otherwise impressive review, despite the fact that drinking alcohol is one of the most socially meaningful and richly symbolic activities in our culture. […]
But it is not just the meaning of drinks which determine the role alcohol plays in our lives, it is the meaning of drinking as well. Sociologists have been exploring this territory for years and we would do well to read their maps, because it shows us how culture influences not only our views on drunkenness, but the experience of being intoxicated itself. […]
While health campaigns are focusing on risk reduction, research by Sheehan and Ridge with teenage girls in Australia found that any harm encountered along the way tends to be “filtered through a ‘good story,’ brimming with tales of fun, adventure, bonding, sex, gender transgressions, and relationships”.