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Alcohol and Culture Change: Current Challenges and Conundrums


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Title: Alcohol and Culture Change: Current Challenges and Conundrums

Alcohol and Culture Change Current Challenges
and Conundrums
  • Ann M RocheDirector,
  • National Centre for Education and Training on
  • Flinders
  • Thinking Drinking 3, Brisbane 5-7 August 2009

What is Culture?
  • Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of
    knowledge, experience, beliefs, values,
    attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion,
    notions of time, roles, spatial relations,
    concepts of the universe, and material objects
    and possessions.
  • Culture is communication, communication is
  • Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its
    symbols include a group's skills, knowledge,
    attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of
    the symbols are learned and deliberately
    perpetuated in a society through its
  • Culture consists of patterns, explicit and
    implicit, of and for behaviour acquired and
    transmitted by symbols, the essential core of
    culture consists of traditional ideas and
    especially their attached values culture systems
    may, on the one hand, be considered as products
    of action, on the other hand, as conditioning
    influences upon further action.
  • Culture is a collective programming of the mind
    that distinguishes the members of one group or
    category of people from another.

Where Does Alcohol Sit?Dominant
social relations construct the object and shape
the discourse. Hence alcohol has been variously
seen as a necessity of life, a poisonous
substance, a hazardous drug, a social lubricant
or a key element of the economy (Foucault,
  • Alcohols changing historical perspective
  • 1830s issue of free trade
  • Mid-Victorian era issue of individual morality
  • 1880s increasingly a question of social reform
  • During WWI issue of national efficiency
  • inter-war years issue of leisure, town
  • Post WWII re-emerged as a medical issue
  • Then emerged as a public disorder issue with
    concern over anti-social behaviour by young
  • Defined also as a part of the leisure industry
    and tourism which frames the issue in terms of
    leisure and tourism rather than health or public
  • Also a central part of global corporatisation and
    contemporary libertarian world view
  • (e.g. David Korten When Corporations Rule the

  • Alcohol issues are complex involve leisure,
    food, town planning, free markets, public order
  • Both culture change and policy shift can be
    achieved if both the venue and discourse allow
    new alliances to flourish (Greenaway, 2008)
  • Western culture possess two defining features
    materialism and individualism
  • danger of simplifying the politics of alcohol by
    neglecting the importance of the framing of and
    discourse on issues
  • The anti-smoking analogy is of limited value

Evidence Based Practice and Policy
  • Research and evidence is the cornerstone of
    culture change
  • While EBP is of fundamental importance, not all
    initiatives need to be evidence based !
  • note introduction of needle availability to
    counteract spread of HIV AIDS NOT an evidence
    based strategy, but proved to be highly
  • Must also engage in innovative work to be able to
    move forward
  • Trust our intuition, judgement and aspirations

Tipping Point(Gladwell, 2001)
  • punctuated equilibrium
  • (Baumgartner and Jones, 1993)

Whats Changed?
  • Many important social changes in families,
    lifestyles womens roles
  • Concept of Youth
  • Concept of Culture
  • Eternal pursuit of Youthfulness
  • Commodification of leisure
  • Views about work/life balance
  • Drinking patterns (incl. what we drink, how we
  • Implications for Low Risk drinking and

  • YP stay in education longer
  • Sexual intercourse experienced earlier and
    earlier ages (42 years 10-12 had had sexual
    intercourse (2002)
  • More unsupervised time
  • Different experience of family 1 in 6
    families in 2006 were single-parent families vs 1
    in 17 in 1970s
  • Get married later (21/23 yrs,1970 28/30 yrs,
  • 3 Ms deferred (Marriage, Mortgage, Maternity)
  • Live at home longer (KIPPERS)
  • Have more expendable income
  • Different views about work/life balance
  • Leisure and recreation a greater priority and we
    live in an increasingly individualised and
    socially disconnected world

NCETA Research
  • Cultural focus
  • examines role of social, economic political

New NCETA Report Qualitative Research 14-24 year
olds (20 FG, 90 interviews, 12 field
  • Key themes
  • Sociality and imperative to belong, demonstrate
    commitment x risk taking
  • Negotiating ever changing social interactions
    issue of confidence
  • Lack of viable non-drinking identities and real
    world options
  • Duty of care esp. among females
  • Gender issues and the invisible male in
    regrettable incidents

Individual freedom vs controlExcess vs
ConstraintEconomic neoliberalism and
globalizationPleasure vs pathologyPursuit of
happiness vs good in a consumer society
Leisure Lifestyle
  • Consumer culture
  • characterised by recreation and indulgence
  • Greater emphasis placed on work-life balance

Leisure Lifestyle in Consumer Society
  • Generational changes

Leisure and Lifestyle
  • consumption is central to the leisure experience
  • leisure is central to ones image
  • aspirational, risk-taking, status-defining, and
    image-enhancing leisure time pursuits
  • (Measham, 2004)

Leisure Lifestyle
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Popular leisure activity
  • Important element of socialisation
  • Identity within and distinction between
    friendship groups
  • Excessive consumption
  • Has become normative

The Absence of Society(Zygmund Bauman, 2008)
  • Describes current driving force of behaviour as
    no longer the desire to
  • keep up with the Joneses, but the infuriatingly
    nebulous idea of catching up with supermodels,
    premier league footballers and top-ten singers.
  • Some argue that materialism drives us to consume
    alcohol (and drugs) because materialism cannot
    fulfill our search for meaning.

Social Contagion Theory
  • (see O.J. Skog)

  • Seems axiomatic that pleasure is one of the main
    motivators for alcohol use. But rarely mentioned
    or reflected in our policies. Our policies
    suggest that alcohol use only ever emerges from
    or leads to misery, ill health, and social
  • Speaking the unspeakable. Alcohol use and
    leisure activities with which it is associated
    are inherently about pleasure.
  • Much neglected area of public health (since time
    of Plato)
  • Too hard to deal with?
  • Ignore, disparage, relegate to the
    inconsequential at our peril.

Field Observation field note excerpt 3
  • Observer at Good Vibrations Music Festival
  • Entering the grounds of the music festival was
    like entering another world for the daythere is
    a sense that social rules and ways of relating to
    each other were quite different from the outside
    world, allowing people to engage with each other
    with a sense of freedom, free from the formality
    of being among strangers in the real world.
    There was a sense of community freedom from
    normal social conventions, like they were all in
    it together.

Market Forces
  • Market forces - global
  • Advertising/Marketing influence young peoples
    decisions about drinking
  • When to drink (initiation)
  • What to drink
  • How much to drink
  • Where to drink
  • Who to drink with
  • Advertising/Marketing part of cultural context

  • Sponsorship

  • Branded promotional material
  • Point-of-Sale
  • Position
  • Films, TV, music

  • Happy Hour
  • Pre-loading

Generational change new ways of drinking
  • Drinking style of young people differs to adult
    counterparts e.g., determined drunkenness,
    vertical drinking

Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Young People
(Newbury-Birch et al., 2009)
  • Protective Factors
  • Location of first drink children who first use
    alcohol in a home environment and learn about its
    effects from parents are less likely to misuse
    alcohol than those who begin drinking outside the
    home with peers
  • Delaying time of first drink
  • Having adults who have good relationships with
    appropriate levels of control and support
  • Controlled alcohol use is not predictive of later
  • Religious affiliation, esp attendance at
    religious services
  • Informed and supportive parental guidance and
    delay in age of initiation
  • Positive Consequences
  • Some YP benefit from increased confidence when
    communicating with the opposite sex
  • Alcohol can increase YPs feelings of sociability
  • Drinking alcohol as a means of celebrating and on
    special occasions may be positive for YP

Current Epidemiological Evidence indicates
(Newbury-Birch et al., 2009)
  • Delaying the onset of regular drinking, by
    changing the attitudes of 11-15 year olds, and
    their parents, about alcohol.
  • Reducing the harm to young people who have
    already started to drink
  • Creating a culture in which YP feel they can have
    fun without needing to drink.
  • (inc. in Englands Alcohol HR Strategy, 2007)

Reported age of first full serve of alcohol, by
age cohort (2004 NDSHS)
Changes in types of alcohol consumed by risky
drinkers aged 15 to 17 from 2001 to 2004 (data
from 2000-2004 NAC)
The Shift to Spirits
Harm from Drinking Alcohol
Harm per volume for drinkers drinking less than
three standard drinks per session
Complex Problems
  • Child Awareness (child protection)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Assualt

The Harm Reduction Continuum of Acceptability
Opportunities for Socio-Cultural Change
  • Workplace
  • Schools (school to work transition)
  • Parents
  • Sport
  • Provision of legitimate and valued non-drinking
    leisure options
  • Redefining the Australian national identity

1. Workplace
  • Changing workplace cultures
  • (Pidd and Roche, 2008)

1. Workers Alcohol use (2004 NDSHS)
of drinkers aged 14 years and over, by
employment status
Workers alcohol use by age
drinking weekly (or more often) at risky
hi-risk levels
Proportion of workforce drinking weekly at
short-term risky hi-risk levels, by age
Transition from School to Work
  • Some workplaces more conducive to the development
    of risky patterns of drinking than others e.g.
    hospitality industry
  • Workplace culture a pivotal factor

Workers alcohol use by industry
drinking weekly (or more often) at risky
hi-risk levels
New NCETA Reports
2. Schools
  • 1. Connectedness
  • 2. Social norming
  • 3. Media analysis skill
  • 4. Social skills development
  • 5. Gender issues (incl. sexual assault)

Social Norms Interventionsto reduce alcohol
misuse in university or college students
  • New Cochrane Collaboration review
  • Moreira, Smith and Foxcroft. 2009 Cochrane review

Sexualisation of Young Women/Girls
  • New Australian report of
  • High levels of sexual assault
  • experienced by young
  • females attributed to
  • coercion and alcohol

3. Parenting
  • Empower
  • Support
  • Upskill

Socio-cultural drinking traditions and Parenting
  • Leisure realm rich forum for enculturation
  • Normative behaviours around drinking are assumed

Clipsal 500, Feb 08
Number of one-parent families in Australia (data
from ABS, 1997, 2006 and 2007)
1 in 6 families in 2006 were single-parent
families vs 1 in 17 in 1970s
4. Sport
Reframing Alcohol and Sport
5. Provision of legitimate and valued
non-drinking leisure options
6. Redefine the Australian national identity
Socio-cultural drinking traditions and National
  • A sense of national pride is expressed through
    drinking to excess

International Cricket, Feb 08
Factors that predict risky drinking
  • Relationship with parents (positiveprotective)
  • Parental modelling
  • Age first started drinking
  • NOT socioeconomic status
  • Amount of spending money
  • Religion (protective)
  • School connectedness - perceive teachers to be
    fair and care about them (protective)

Wicked Problems
  • "Wicked problem" is a phrase used in social
    planning to describe a problem that is difficult
    or impossible to solve because of
  • incomplete,
  • contradictory,
  • and changing requirements
  • that are often difficult to recognize.
  • Moreover, because of complex interdependencies,
  • the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked
  • may reveal or create other problems.

Strategies to tackle wicked problemsWicked
problems cannot be tackled by the traditional
approach in which problems are defined, analysed
and solved in sequential steps. The main reason
for this is that there is no clear problem
definition of wicked problems. Strategies to cope
with wicked problems
  • Authoritative
  • These strategies seek to tame wicked problems by
    vesting the responsibility for solving the
    problems in the hands of a few people. The
    reduction in the number of stakeholders reduces
    problem complexity, as many competing points of
    view are eliminated at the start. The
    disadvantage is that authorities and experts
    charged with solving the problem may not have an
    appreciation of all the perspectives needed to
    tackle the problem.
  • Competitive
  • These strategies attempt to solve wicked problems
    by pitting opposing points of view against each
    other, requiring parties that hold these views to
    come up with their preferred solutions. The
    advantage of this approach is that different
    solutions can be weighed up against each other
    and the best one chosen. The disadvantage of is
    that it creates a confrontational environment in
    which knowledge sharing is discouraged.
    Consequently, the parties involved may not have
    an incentive to come up with their best possible
  • Collaborative
  • These strategies aim to engage all stakeholders
    in order to find the best possible solution for
    all stakeholders. Typically these approaches
    involve meetings in which issues and ideas are
    discusses and a common, agreed approach is
    formulated. In his 1972 paper, Rittel hints at a
    collaborative approach one which attempts, "to
    make those people who are being affected into
    participants of the planning process . They are
    not merely asked but actively involved in the
    planning process" A disadvantage of this
    approach is that achieving a shared understanding
    and commitment to solving a wicked problem is a
    time-consuming process. Research over the last
    two decades has shown the value of computer
    assisted argumentation techniques in improving
    the effectiveness of cross-stakeholder
    communication. More recently, the technique of
    dialogue mapping has been used in tackling wicked
    problems in organizations using a collaborative

  • No unique correct view of the problem
  • Different views of the problem and contradictory
  • Most problems are connected to other problems
  • Data are often uncertain or missing
  • Multiple value conflicts
  • Ideological and cultural constraints
  • Political constraints
  • Economic constraints
  • Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued
  • Numerous possible intervention points
  • Consequences difficult to imagine
  • Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity
  • Great resistance to change and,
  • Problem solver(s) out of contact with the
    problems and potential solutions.

Super wicked problems
  • Some researchers make a distinction between
    wicked and super wicked problems. The latter have
    the following additional characteristics
  • Time is running out.
  • No central authority.
  • Those seeking to solve the problem are also
    causing it.
  • The paradigmatic example of a super wicked
    problem is global climate change or the

Environment conservation Analogy
  • Outward looking
  • Conserves vs consumes
  • Collective vs individualistic
  • Rejuvenates vs exhausts

Slow Food Movement
The Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo
Petrini in Italy as a resistance movement to
combat fast food. It claims to preserve the
cultural cuisine and the associated food plants
and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within
an ecoregion. It was the first established part
of the broader Slow movement. Source
Carlo Petrini was born in the commune Bra in the
province of Cuneo in Italy.
Slow Food Movement (cont.)
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic
member-supported organization that was founded in
1989, the disappearance of local food traditions
and peoples dwindling interest in the food they
eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how
our food choices affect the rest of the
world.The movement has since expanded globally
to over 85,000 members in 132 countries. Source
Slow Food
- good, clean and fair food - counteracts fast
food and fast life
Source http//
  • Change means movement.
  • Movement means friction.
  • Only in the frictionless vacuum of a non-existent
    abstract world can movement or change occur
    without that abrasive friction of conflict.
  • (Saul Alinsky)

Where to from here?
  • Japanese proverb
  • Vision without action, is a day dream.
  • Action without vision, is a nightmare.
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