The New Temperance

The American Obsession with Sin and Vice


David Wagner

First Edition • March 7, 1997 • 240 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813325699 • $44.00 USD$51.00 CAN

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The war on drugs … the campaigns against smoking cigarettes … v-chips to control what children watch on TV … censoring the Internet and Calvin Klein jeans ads …  bipartisan lectures about the dangers of teen sex … constant warnings about food and fat … all are examples of what David Wagner terms the New Temperance. The New Temperance contrasts the new obsession with personal behavior in America during the last two decades with the brief period of relative freedom in the 1960s and early 1970s and suggests strong consistencies with our past. In particular, the late twentieth century appears to have re-created the mood of the Victorian and Progressive Periods, when social movements such as the Temperance, Social Purity, and Vice and Vigilance movements held sway. The New Temperance questions the constant mantra in the media and in political debates about the dangers of personal behavior and challenges America’s love affair with repression.


David Wagner is associate professor of social work and sociology at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of two previous books, including Checkerboard Square (Westview, 1993), winner of the 1993 C. Wright Mills Award.

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