Jasmin Brötz
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Alcohol, abstinence and rationalisation in Germany, c. 1870s–1910s
in Alcohol, psychiatry and society
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This chapter illustrates how alcohol, technology, industrialisation and moral concerns were bound together in the case of the German Reich founded in 1870–71. It explores the debates on degeneration and the ‘social body’. The focus is on the call for complete abstinence around 1880. The chapter traces the emergence of science-based concepts of alcohol misuse, such as those promulgated by psychiatrists such as Forel and Kraepelin. Both protagonists provided expert knowledge and saw ‘alcoholism’ as inheritable and also as a mental illness. The interest in ‘healing the nation’ from alcoholism fitted in squarely with the self-perception of Germany as a modern, progressive and rationalised society. The author shows that inheritable degeneration through alcoholism was feared; that economic losses due to alcoholism were accurately calculated; and that alcohol was considered to compromise Germany’s competitiveness among the nations. The healing of the individual was expected to lead to the healing of the collective (later referred to as the Volkskörper).

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Alcohol, psychiatry and society

Comparative and transnational perspectives, c. 1700–1990s

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