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3 Assimilative Reform and Social Dominance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joseph R Gusfield   
Sunday, 06 February 2011 00:00

3 Assimilative Reform and Social Dominance

The period roughly between 1830 and 1850 is the only phase of Temperance reform during which large numbers of adherents were attempting to curb their own drinking propensities and become self-abstinent. During the past century Temperance has been a movement by abstainers to reform drinkers. Temperance supporters have come from families, communities, and cultures in which drink-ing was a condemned custom and drunkenness rare among friends or relatives. Temperance people are not a segment of the society likely to have suffered directly from their own or another's drink-ing behavior. Eradication of intcodcating beverages is not likely to change the behavior of the abstainer. He is already abstaining. Neither is it likely to change his personal welfare, economic well-being, or emotional security in any direct fashion. The Temperance movement has sought to make others conform to the norms of the Temperance follower. As was true of the Abolitionist, "their greatest execution was among earnest young people predisposed to morality and reform."1

It is in this sense of action which has little direct effect upon the reformers that we speak of a "disinterested" reform. "They have little or nothing to lose by the deviant's departure from norms . . . their personal situation is not appreciably damaged by his mis-behavior." 2

Within the Temperance movement reactions to the drinker as the object of reform have depended upon the relation between the violation of the norm of abstinence and the status of that norm within the society. Where violation did not threaten the legitimacy and dominance of the Temperance standards it had different con-notations than when it represented an attack upon the validity of the abstainer's criteria of moral behavior. In order to make this central point clear we must examine some characteristics of norms and norms-violation as attributes of social status. This is a necessary prelude to the analysis of the major types of Temperance reform, to be presented in the remainder of this and the next chapters.


The criteria of proper behavior in any subgroup or subculture may be rejected or accepted by most people in the total society. The norms of the segment may be viewed as legitimate modes of be-havior by others or they may be labeled deviant, aberrant, and criminal. Some aspects of "youth culture," for example its dating and athletic concerns, are viewed by adults as legitimate ways for the young to behave. Other aspects of the same culture are seen by adults as "problems," as violations of normative standards, even though shared by many young people.3

The fact that the approved modes of behavior in one group may be disapproved by another in the same society is the root of the difficulty in defining the rules-breaker or the criminal. Two prob-lems connected with this are pertinent to our concerns: (1) Whose norms shall be used to define behavior as nonconforming? (2) At what level shall we define the appropriate norms—at the level of behavioral regularities, what most people do--or at the level of moral standards—what most people think they should do?

Research in criminology has led to the conclusion that delinquent and criminal action often conforrns to norms of gang, community, or neighborhood although delinquent behavior is nonconformist from the standpoint of legal norms.4 The delinquent or criminal may deviate from the standards of other social classes but he is often true to his own. "Every delinquent subculture . . . is based upon a set of dominant roles which involve the performance of delinquent acts." 5

VVhen different groups in the same society adhere to opposing and contradictory norms is there any rationale or utility in refer-ring to legitimate and illegitimate acts? The existence of normative differences might lead us to speak only of conflict with no designa-tion of one set of rules as in any sense superior to another. Yet we recognize that in many societies the relations between contradictory sets of norms is not only conflict. One set may take precedence over the other; one group's standards have greater weight than another's, for both groups. If the delinquent persists in perceiving his behavior as sanctioned and nondelinquent behavior as a violation of norms he will find less social support for his views and actions than will those who condemn his delinquencies. Some standards are more "legitimate" than others within the total society.

Clarity can be increased if we distinguish between legitimacy as a subjective and as an objective term. As a subjective term it refers to the approval or disapproval which the actor bestows on the norm. It is a question of consensus about the moral obligation to perform an act. Max Weber's classic discussion of legitimacy con-tains both a subjective and an objective connotation. ". . . an order will only be called 'valid' if the orientation to such maxims in-cludes, no matter to what extent, the recognition that they are binding on the actor or [italics added] the corresponding action constitutes a desirable model for him to imitate." 6 As Weber indi-cates, the binding nature of norms-obedience depends on acceptance of the authority of the norm-giver. It is not solely dependent on the moral approval which the conformer grants to the norm itself. Weber gives as an example of this the person who fights a duel. He orients his behavior to the codes of dueling honor, but he also takes into account the police and the criminal law which he is violating, whatever may be his moral agreement with the antidueling law. "The fact that the order is recognized as valid in his society is made evident by the fact that he cannot violate it openly without punishment." 7 In this latter case, where the actor accepts the norm even though he disapproves it, legitimacy is ob-jective. In order to distinguish these two situations we vvill use the term "legitimacy" to mean the moral approval of the norm by the actor. We will use the term "domination" to refer to the situation in which the actor obeys norms of which he does not approve.8

Norms become legitimate when the actors view them as right, proper, and appropriate. Temperance norms are legitimate to the members of the Temperance movement. To many nonabstainers they may be illegitimate. Domination rests on the power, prestige, authority of one person, group, or official over another. The content of the norm may be disapproved but, as in the case of the duelers, the nonbeliever recognizes its force. The individual may accept a given authority as legitimate even though a specific norm enunci-ated by that authority represents domination, that is, is not morally approved of by the subordinate. An institution may be dominated by norms which some group or person does not share. For example, the norms of patriotic commitment are dominant in the school system. Patriotic rites are performed and patriotism is taught as a revered and appropriate set of attitudes. Patriotism is dominant in American schools. The nonpatriot may disapprove of this; he may organize to influence changes; he may even withdraw his child from the school. One thing he cannot sanely do. He cannot act as if his norms were binding in the schools. A system of domination may rest upon legitimacy in some areas of the society but not in others. What is essential to the fact of orderly and recurrent be-havior is the recognition in all areas that one set of norms and not its altemative is likely to prevail. It is not a question of whose ox is gored but of who holds the plow.

Levels of Normative Order

The second problem of norms-violation is that of the level at which a rule is broken. We recognize that few, if any, norms are obeyed at all times by all persons. We also recognize an important ambiguity in the concept of norm. Sometimes the term refers to a model of behavior, a standard toward which behavior should be directed. In this sense it is a moral judgment. Sometimes the term refers to the average, median, or typical pattern of behavior, as in the term normal." 9 Norrns are both ideal statements of behavior and regu-larities of action.

These two levels often diverge. Both individuals and groups support standards which are more honored in their breach than in their performance. Sexual morals are a glaring example of such discrepancies. The standards of sexual morality which law, church, school, .tict communications media constantly support as right and proper are disobeyed by large segments of the American popula-tion.1°

The fact that a norm is frequently violated by no means neces-sarily diminishes its position as an ideal. Religious standards of charity, mercy, and justice may be daily dishonored yet remain im-portant statements of what people of the United States perceive as the most acceptable and approved behavior. "Don't do as I do; do as I say" is a perfectly understandable maxim with which one generation frequently instructs another.

The idealized normative standards are those most likely to be acceptable in public statements and actions. In customary behavior, where there is a degree of consensus about expectations, informal understandings enable people to develop norms which violate the ideals with impunity. Where the action or statement involves the total society, the ideals are likely to be the most common denom-inator, the safest ways to act because they are the ways least likely to be punishable. We are less apt to go wrong in public by being saintly than by being ourselves.

The public acceptance of a set of ideal norms confers prestige and respect on them. It stamps them as those which are set forth as most worthy of obedience in the society. Correspondingly, ac-ceptance of such ideal norms confers respect and prestige on those groups whose behavior is closest to them. It stamps such groups as those most worthy of emulation.

Types of Norms-Violators

From this standpoint, what is crucial to our analysis of disinterested reform is the impact of the violation on the acceptance of the norms as legitimate or as dominant and the implications of viola-tion for the norms as ideal standards. We can best explain this by analyzing several different kinds of violators.

1. The repentent deviant. Here the violator admits that his act is morally reprehensible, to himself as well as to those who dom-inate institutions. The murderer admits that murder is immoral, the speeding motorist admits the legitimacy of the traffic laws he has broken, and the chronic alcoholic admits that it would be much finer to be sober. This lcind of deviant may persist in his action without threatening the legitimacy or domination of the norms he violates. The homosexual who seeks a psychiatrist to rid himself of his habits has defined his action in ways that imply consensus between himself and those who condemn him.

2. The dominated deviant. This is the case already analyzed in our discussion of Weber's concept of legitimacy. Here the norms-violator does not attack the dominant position of the norms-up-holder as more prestigeful and powerful. 'The criminal takes ac-count of the law; he does not quarrel with it. The drug addict does not boast in public that he is a drug addict, although the addict who has cured himself may do so. Juvenile delinquents, as Sykes and Matza have shown» are adept in using neutralizing tech-niques to influence legal officials. They excuse their behavior in such ways that it is not repudiation of the law as a leg,itimate ideal. Even the rebel grants the domination of those he rebels against. Marx recognized this in his contempt for Bohemianism, which he saw as inverted convention "emphasizing and paying homage to the very same false values by exaggerated protest against them." 12

We consider these two kinds of rules-violation as deviant be-havior because they recognize the legitimacy or domination of the norms they have violated. They "pay homage" to them as occuping a dominant position at either an ideal or a behavioral level. Deviant beh,avior is not, in fact, a matter of public contro-versy. Nobody can publicly, institutionally, side with the deviant. The delinquent, the homosexual, the radical, the drug addict—all these cease to be deviants the moment their behavior can be prob-lematically legitimate; the moment their behavior is held out as publicly emulative. Perhaps this is best illustrated by a current comic strip in which an elementary classroom is informed that next week there will be a panel of spealcers discussing juvenile delin-quency. "Oh, goody," says one of the girls. "Are they for it or against it?"

3. Enemies. In a society that had perfect consensus, everybody would be agreed on the moral value of any possible norm. 'The only kind of norms-violators would be repentent deviants. Such con-sensus is seldom obtained, least of all in rapidly changing or in complex societies. When one group acts in a manner contradicting the other's beliefs in the legitimacy and domination of its own norms, the situation becomes that of a conflict between enemies. One side of this conflict anticipates that its norms will be dominant in the major institutions of the society; that its norms vvill have public validity; that the other side will respect these norms as the "official" presciiptions of the society. The "lightness" of the norms is not accepted by the norms-violator either as legitimate or as an institutional fact, as dominant. From the perspective of the norms-violator, the norms-proscribers ( those who have expected domi-nance) are deviant, illegitimate, and themselves norms-violators.

Each contradicts the cultural and institutional expectations of the other. Neither "pays homage" to the other, by attitude or action. Each is a repudiation of the power and prestige of the other.

An example of this form of social conflict is given in many edu-cational issues. Issues of educational content often range groups against each other as enemies, each denying the legitimacy and dominance of the other's values and beliefs. Those who want school curricula to reflect controversy and those who want a greater degree of censorship are drawn from diverging cultures and social strata.13 VVhen the school system is organized along the principles of either side, the other sees the situation as morally wrong and as "shocking" to their expectations of how the schools are operated. The domina-tion of the other side is not accepted or taken as given. The situa-tion is in conflict.

Norms-Violation and the Reform Reaction

When the object of moral reform, the person who has violated the norm of the reformers, can be perceived as a deviant rather than an enemy, the social status of the reformer is supported and enhanced. His norms are the ideal and the dominant operative standards for his society. When the norms-violator is seen as an enemy the social status of the reformer is threatened. The dominant position of his culture is under attack. It is possible that his sources of respect and deference may be degraded. Groups obtain prestige and self-respect, in part, from the resonance between their norms and those which achieve dominance in the society.

This relation between norms-violation and response means that as objects of reform deviants and enemies are regarded differently. A social group that perceives its culture as defining the ideal and publicly valid norms of the society will approach the deviant as someone to be helped in attaining the habits which can assure improvement in his social condition. The answer of this reformer to social problems is "Be like us." This mode of reform is assimi-lative, holding out to the potentially reformed person the possibility of entry into the more dominant circles of the community. Con-versely, the action of the reformer reinforces his own belief in his social supremacy.

The assumption that the norms-violator recognizes the legitimacy or domination, at any level of normative order, is contradicted when the norms-violator is perceived as an enemy. The question "'Who dominates?" is now an open one. The norms-violator can no longer be dealt with as someone who can be converted and assimi-lated. If the culture of the reformer is repudiated, his exhortations fall on deaf and angry ears. The expected homage is not paid; the act of deference is absent. The reaction of the reformer must be coercive rather than assimilative. The object of reform is not some-one to be helped but someone who is hostile and must be ap-proached as an enemy; who must be forced to accept the dom-inance of the reformer. "The law-norms determine who . . . among the governing agents are the superior and the inferior, entitled to command and obliged to obey."14


Two Types of Temperance Reform

By the advent of the Civil War both assimilative and coercive traditions were established in the Temperance movement. The assimilative strand was marked by sympathy of the righteous toward those too weak to help themselves. In a tone of missioniz-ing humanitarianism, the assumption was made that the object of reform was suffering. He wished to be saved but could not help hiniself. The social welfare of the downtrodden was the aim of Temperance in this facet of its doctrines and action. In this com-plex of ideas and programs, the Temperance adherent assumed that his norms were dominant in the society. The drinker is given the opportunity to remake himself so as to fit in with the style of life of those who seek his reform. While legislation may be sought to aid the process, the major activities are efforts to persuade the sufferer and to remake his habits and customs. The orientation of the movement in this form is toward the welfare of the potential abstainer by his conversion to the habits of abstinence.

As long as Temperance is a dominant set of norms in the society, the Temperance adherent can feel himself functioning as the enun-ciator of a morality which both reformer and potentially reformed admit as legitimate. The attempt to persuade others operates within a common culture. When conflicts in culture emerge this is no longer the case. VVhen the Temperance movement faced pop-ulations, such as the Irish and German immigrants of the 1840's, the assumption of cultural continuity between classes was not sus-tained. The second strand vvithin the movement is a response to such a situation. It is coercive rather than assimilative, hostile rather than missionizing.

Faced with the recalcitrance of the drinker as a deviant, the advocate of respectability can feel pity, sympathy, and love in his effort to win back a lost soul. Faced with sinners who refuse to define themselves as such, who perceive the reformers as cruel, immoral, and tyrannical, and deny the dominance of Temperance norms as ideals, the reformer is shocked and appalled. The object of his reform is a hostile enemy who must be coerced through legislation if Temperance values are to retain a dominant value position in his society and the temperate person retain his pres-tige. A challenge to the domination and legitimacy of his norms is a threat to his power and prestige, to his superior position vis-à-vis the drinker.

Social Workers and Slum Dwellers

The relation between the social worker and the slum dweller is an illustration of the assimilative orientation as a means of acting out status levels. The goup with the higher prestige and power pre-sents its system of conduct as worthy of emulation by those of lesser power and prestige. To possess greater prestige in a society implies precisely this kind of situation: prestige is connoted by the tacit agreement that the way of life of the dominant group is morally superior to that of the lowly.

Commentators on contemporary social welfare practices have pointed out the discrepancies between the values and norms of the social worker and the culture of residents in the slum commu-nity. Faced by the facts that crime, political corruption, limited motivation in school, high rates of desertion, and delinquency characterize an area, sociologists in past generations have pro-nounced the slum an "area of disorganization." 15 Recently sociolo-gists have shown that this designation hides the fact of very real differences in values between one level of society and another. Slum life often is highly organized, although the values around which the organization of behavior occurs may seem immoral, unjust, or incredible to observers." Here is William F. VVhyte's description of the assimilative role of the settlement house in Cornerville, a north Boston slum area: "The social worker's con-ception of his functions was quite evident. He thought in terms of a one-way adaptation. Although in relation to the background of the community, the settlement was an alien institution, never-theless the community was expected to adapt itself to the stand-ards of the settlement house. Some people made this adjustment; most people did not." "

The assimilative orientation has played a significant role in the history of the Temperance movement in all its phases. It has not always been the central orientation of all wings and at all times. Some organizations and some periods have been more assimilative than others. Both assimilative and coercive reform have appeared in the movement at all times.

VVhile coercive motifs and activities were part of the Temperance movement, a missionizing, assimilative tone was one major strand in the movement during the last half of the nineteenth oentury. Several factors of nineteenth-century religious and economic change produced problems of deep interest to a segment of mid-dle-class Americans for whom abstinence was an accepted and honored part of their culture. Temperance activities were part of the ways in which they reacted to the development of a large number of underprivileged, low-status persons in the society. Within this context total abstinence was a doctrine of change and assimilation of the nonconformer into middle-class life, an ex-pression of the terms by which social and economic success had been gained by the Temperance adherent and could be gained by the reformed drinker. In this fashion the total abstainer bolstered his feeling that his culture dominated the ideals of his society—through Temperance, he tried to incorporate alien cultures and deviant actions into his framework of values.

During much of the remainder of this book, our attention will be given to the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, although by no means exclusively. The long life of the WCTU (1874- present ) provides us with a consistent organization against which to assess changes from one historical period to another. During its years of continued activity, the WCTU has amassed a large number of state and national records in the form of journals, pro-ceedings, and reports. It has published a weekly or biweeldy magazine almost since its initial formation. Biographical and auto-biographical material on its leaders has been available and it has published a great many tracts, pamphlets, and statements of Tem-perance doctrine. The length of its eidstence and its system of unit reporting have made it possible to compile data on changes in social composition and regional membership. Interviews with local, state, and national leaders during the 1950's have added to our knowledge. The use of the WCTU as a major source of data, however, has not meant that we have ignored other aspects of the movement. The relations and differences between parts of the movement are a basic theme in the remaining chapters as they were in the last one.


At all times the Temperance movement in America has drawn its membership, its energies, and its moral code from organized re-ligion. In the final quarter of the nineteenth century, when Tem-perance was again a significant social and political activity, much of its tone was permeated by the spirit of Christian concern for humanitarian justice and sympathy. Intemperance was part and cause of a complex of evils which the social Christian sought to eradicate. (Earlier Temperance activities had helped prepare a soil for this later humanitarianism by sensitizing men to the needs of those around them.18) The doctrines of Christian progressivism pro-vided an ideological soil within which assimilative reform easily took root.

In analyzing the ideology of Temperance in this phase of Chris-tian charity, we shall adopt the typology used by Henry May in his study of late nineteenth-century Protestant social thought.'19

May depicted three forms of social Christianity. There was a con-servative social Christianity, which fully accepted the principles of an individualistic, laissez-faire economy. The reform for which the conservative called was conducted on an individualistic, vol-untary, and philanthropic basis. In no sense was he an advocate of institutional change. A radical Christianity utilized religious doctrine as a foundation for an attack on the existing social and economic order. This form of social action was a call to fashion a new social system. Christian Socialism was one manifestation of the radical Christian's approach.

Progressive social Christianity was an intermediate position between the two poles of conservatism and radicalism. The Chris-tian progressivist sought to improve upon present institutions through specific and ameliorative reforms in the institutions. He was for collective bargaining in industry but not for the disappear-ance of private property; for equal rights for women but not for changes in sexual morality. He was for changes which insured that those now handicapped might get fairer play in the operation of the institutions. The progressive Christian might support the underdog in his struggles with dominant economic or political groups but he was not for fundamental changes in the structure which produced the conflicts. What he wanted was for institu-tions to be operated in a moral manner. He wanted to ameliorate their operation when they proved harsh and unCluistian. He was not looking for a new model on which to build a new order of things.

All three of these religious doctrines were types of assimilative reform. Social Christianity was not a movement by the disinherited to improve their lot in life. It was a reaction of the educated and pious middle classes to the suffering of others.2° The effort to bring religion to social action evoked the sentiments of an urban middle class which was disturbed by the slum, the factory, and the multiple problems of an expanding industrial economy. Inso-far as Temperance organizations derived support from the ideology of social Christianity they also reflected the urban middle-class atmosphere of acceptance of the social order coupled with a dis-turbing sense that injustice and harm were being done to some unfortunate souls.

Conservatism in the WCTU

The three approaches of social Christianity were all represented in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. It was the progres-sive position, however, which developed into the major force in doctrine and activity during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. This was allied to other movements which expressed a larger concem for the entire scope of problems of a nascent in-dustrialism and urbanization.

The conservative implications of Temperance stem largely from the fact that, as an explanation of distributive results, it places attention on personal character rather than institutional arrange-ments. If sobriety were a matter of character and will and if ab-stinence would increase the economic and social position of the person, then the man who continued to use alcohol and to visit the saloon was the willing arm of his own victimization. As a state-ment of what is wrong with society, the doctrine of Temperance makes the creation of moral behavior—that is, the behavior of the Protestant Christian of middle-class respectability—a major goal of social reform.

Conservative social Christianity was dominant in the WCTU for only a short time following the organization's beginnings in 1874. After the Civil War one wing of the Temperance movement sought to restrict activities to moral suasion for total abstinence and to measures that might effect the religious conversion of the drinker. Being aimed solely at change in the hearts of men, WCTU members and leaders who shared this orientation resisted all at-tempts to ally the WCTU with other social questions. The first president of the WCTU, Annie Wittenmyer, held to this position. She rejected the demands of many members that the organization commit itself to woman's suffrage, to Prohibition, and to a set of other reforms. In opening the national convention of the WCTU in 18'77 she said to the delegates:21 "I trust the atmosphere of this meeting will be prayer. This society was born of prayer and must be nurtured and sustained by prayer. Prayer is the strongest weapon we can lay hold on." She repeated the theme in her presidential address of 1878 when she argued for "singleness of purpose" and maintained that the Temperance movement should not put its faith "in princes or in the son of man, in whom there is no help." 22

The conservative bent was also reflected in missionary efforts to convert sinners among the lumpenproletariat—criminals, unem-ployed, and bums of the big cities. During their first decade, and even into the 1880's, the WCTU held revivalistic services in major urban centers. Similar in spirit and form to the later activities of the Salvation Army, they were efforts to "rescue" the underprivi-leged and the indifferent outcasts of society. Reports of these activi-ties are full of references to the criminal character of the men reached and the disreputable parts of the city in which the meet-ings were held.23

In this approach, the social problem of Temperance is defined as one of moral lapse. The reform must take place in the character and conduct of the individual, not in the institutions which make alcohol available. A great increase in drinking after the Civil War provided an impetus for the threat to Temperance habits.24 The movement, however, was not directed at the social class from which its members were drawn, but rather at the downtrodden and the lowest rungs of the social ladder. The religious orientation is, through the familiarly assumed nexus between religious commit-ment and middle-class life style, again a means of controlling the existence of disturbing and nonconforming behavior. Without any location of the problems of the suffering sinners in an institutional setting this orientation is congruent vvith the optimistic complacency of a dominant social class. Though all may not be right in the world, we can set it right without conflict, pain, or cost.

Frances Willard and the "Do-Everything" Policy

The development of a wider set of objectives and a generalized response to industrialism in the Temperance movement is associated with the life and career of the second president of the WCTU, Frances Willard.25 She was one of those reformers with a capital R who fill the pages of nineteenth-century histories. Her motto might well have been, "Nothing reformist shall be alien unto me." In her statements and activities she spanned all the major move-ments of conservative, progressive, and radical Christianity. Wom-an's suffrage, dress reform, cremation, vegetarianism, Christian So-cialism, the Populist Party, and the Labor movement are among the movements in which she was an active and often a leading member. She led the WCTU in Temperance agitation from 1879 to her death in 1898. Without any doubt she was the leading Temperance advocate of the late nineteenth century and the most dominant person in the historical development of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

It was apparent that Frances Willard and Annie Wittenmyer represented two poles of opinion in the Temperance movement. Even at the first convention of the new organization, Willard ( then National Corresponding Secretary of the WCTU ) wrote a statement of principles (still in use in the WCTU ) that flatly opposed the conservative and missionizing tone of the first president: "We be-lieve in a living wage; in an eight-hour day; in courts of conciliation and arbitration in justice as opposed to greed in gain; in Peace on Earth and Good-Will to Men.' " 26 These were hardly the terms of a conservative approach to social problems or a narrow inter-pretation of WCTU aims. For the times in which they were written, the principles Miss Willard presented were a sharp criticism of industrial practice in the 1870's in problem areas not directly con-nected with Temperance.

Within two years these diverse approaches collided in a struggle for power in the WCTU. In contrast to Wittenmyer's "singleness of purpose," Frances Willard stood for a "Do-Everything" policy: "We speak about the germ of a new church in which, as Christ declared, there shall be neither male nor female. . . . We speak, too, about the germ of a new political party. . . . We speak about a better Indian policy, wherein dwelleth righteousness and from which fire-water is eliminated, about a wiser civil service reform. . . ." 27

'The struggle between Willard and Wittenmyer reflected the so-cial bases and ideologies of conservatism and progressivism. Witten-myer had made her reputation during the Civil War, as one of the leaders of the Sanitary Commission, the forerunner of the American Red Cross.28 She had been active in church-related activities of the Methodist Church. Willard, on the other hand, was one of the first women in American life to achieve note as a feminist. She had been President of Evanston Female College and a professor at Northwestern University. As a lecturer on the topic of feminine equality, she was one of the respectable leaders of the then growing Feminist movement.

The support these women received from factions within the WCTU shows the relationship between the two strains in the Tem-perance movement in the 1870's. The Eastern wing supported the conservative and older Annie Wittenmyer while the Western vying was drawn to the suffragist views of Miss Willard.29

The Industrial Victim

After Willard's election to the presidency in 1879, the WCTU was pervaded by an interest in a number of allied movements which displayed sympathy for the victim of industrial expansion and which sought to ameliorate the lot of the unfortunate. One of these alli-ances was with the Labor movement. Willard was a friend of Ter-ence Powderly, President of the Knights of Labor. She wrote for its journal and the two organizations helped each other in securing signatures for petitions on issues of the work week and on Temper-ance legislation. During the strikes of the 1880's and 1890's, even after the Knights ceased to be a significant movement, WCTU re-ports and journals were progressively sympathetic to the unionist's right to strike and to the demands of the strikers. Elsewhere in America the striker was severely upbraided by middle-class Ameri-cans, but within the WCTU the employer was more likely to be the target of disapproval. Employers were warned against arousing worker revolt by "kindling the spirit of animosity among those struggling under the iron heel of oppression." 3° Hardly the lan-guage of conservatism!

Elsewhere the ameliorative elements of the WCTU also displayed the attention given to the poor and the underprivileged. VVhile the WCTU was aloof from the religiously inspired movement for Sab-batarian legislation, the six-day work week was a cause for which the WCTU worked hard. In the campaign for prison reform they showed an interest in bettering the conditions of imprisonment not as an instance of Temperance reform, as in the earlier prison gospel meetings, but as goals which were meritorious irrespective of the Temperance issue. "All over the land," wrote a committee chairman, "our jails cry out against us unto the God of Justice." 81

The progressivism of the movement lay in part in its concern for the industrial and urban human refuse, the poor and the under-privileged whose very presence clashed with its view of a moral society. Even the work of religious conversion was pursued in spe-cial committees for evangelical activity among workers and laborers. There were special agencies set up for religious and Temperance agitation among miners, lumberjacks, railroad employees, streetcar conductors, policemen, expressmen, and train newsboys.

Temperance, unalloyed with efforts at change, smacked of call-ing the poor responsible for their own misfortunes. But the WCTU went beyond that. They did perceive the urban, industrial poor as a problem and themselves as charged with duties toward them. In doing so, of course, they again held out their own way of life as the model of behavior and tried to solve the difficulties of the worker and the lumpenproletariat by the mirror technique of offer-ing themselves as sources of emulation. Thus the Kitchen Gardens department of the WCTU was founded so that through schools of coolcing and household management girls might be saved from a life of sin. In this way they would not have to take jobs in saloons and other places where they might be exposed to evil. They could become housemaids and thus be saved from "eating the bread of idleness." 82 Here is the conservative bent appearing within the progressive orientation toward institutional change. The way to prevent the social problem of urban unemployment and immorality lies in developing middle-class habits of industry. This is both a moral duty upon the Temperance adherent and sound advice to the young woman on how to get ahead.

One common and unifying element of these various organizations and movements in which the WCTU was active was their interest in problems which were connected with the urban, industrial ex-pansion--crime, prostitution, unemployment, and labor unrest. In the concern displayed for social reform of institutions and for aid to the victims of urbanization and industrial development, the re-sponse was progressive and liberal.


The conversionist tone of the movement portrayed the drinker in the ldndly images of a sufferer to be uplifted rather than the indig-nant tones of an enemy to be conquered. Drinking was pictured as a major cause of the misfortunes of the urban poor. Temperance was described as a way to copy middle-class habits.

Both the antipathy to industrial leadership and the sympathy toward the urban poor reflected the strains felt by an established class which was witnessing profound social changes. Between 1870 and 1900 the urban component of American population increased from 25.7 to 39.7 per cent. Much of this increase was a result of the growth of the larger cities.83 At the same time, the agricultural segment of the labor force declined from approximately 52 to 38 per cent. Both immigration and migration swelled the growing populations of major cities. The resultant industrialized, urban-ized society was a strange and frightening situation for a people who had been small-town and agricultural. The small businessman, the professional, and the farmer were understandably upset at the development of industrial communities.34 They were uneasy with a community whose social problems were at variance with the small towns and farms in which they were raised. The existence of a large population with the problems of the urban poor was antithetical to their image of society. It threatened the social position of those who strongly identified their social status with dominance in the small-town image of the community. Religion bolstered this uneasiness and directed attention toward the ill effects of industrialism in a context which stressed both moral and economic betterment. The maintenance of the old norms of Temperance, as ideal or reality, was one way to insure their continued prestige.

This doctrine of Temperance was itself couched in a set of ideas in which intemperance was a source of moral suffering and a major impediment to middle-class status. The concern of the movement was with the underprivileged as victims. The middle classes were the sources of Temperance support and the models for emulation: "The class least touched by the evil thus far is that which here, as elsewhere in the land, forms its bone and sinew—the self-respecting and self-supporting class whose chief pleasures in life center in and about the home." 35

The middle-class location of Temperance adherents is supported in data gathered on the occupations of husbands of WCTU leaders. At the local level the organization was led by wives of independent professional and small businessmen. The wives of physicians, lawyers, doctors, and ministers made up a large segment of the WCTU leadership. Retail storeowners, manufacturers in small plants, and wholesalers of varying sorts made up another major group. To-gether they accounted for about tvvo-thirds of the leadership in the sample studied ( see Table 1).36


While these groups were dismayed at the development of indus-trial and urban communities, they were still a socially dominant part of American society. They could still enunciate a doctrine of as-similation in which sobriety and abstinence were tickets of admis-sion into their social circles. Even so, they found both upper-class and lower-class life guilty of the sin of intemperance. "Poverty and suffering everywhere results to the lower classes (from alcohol ); among the higher classes, usefulness and genius are quenched." 37

Poverty, Mobility, and Temperance

The heart of the doctrine of Temperance lay in the manner in which it coupled economic and social success with moral virtue. The theme of uplifting the underdog through drinking reform is a major one in the Temperance literature of this period. The argument is ad-dressed to the worker and not to the employer. The Temperance adherents were not interested in converting the employers to the possible recognition that abstinence was good business. In fact, they appeared to feel that the employer agreed with them. VVhat they wanted to do was persuade the underprivileged that drinking was unrewarding.

The argument addressed to the worker went somewhat as fol-lows: Economic success is a result of reputability and efficiency at work. Drinking destroys both reputation and ability. Abstinence as-sures the person of his reputation and also prevents the decrease in abilities brought on by chronic or episodic alcoholism. The man interested in his economic welfare has an interest in being abstinent.

Temperance fiction supported the argument in a vivid manner. Typical of this is the story "Just My Luck." Ned fails to receive a job for which he has made application. Puzzled by the rejection, Ned discovers that the potential employer was upset by the fact that Ned's uncle, Jack, is known for thriftlessness and drunkenness. No employer will risk hiring Jack. Ned might have avoided this "guilt by association" but he too has been seen smoking and drinking.38 In another type of story, the lawyer or similar professional takes to drink and loses the love of his family and his lucrative practice. Through abstinence, however, he is reformed and recovers his fam-ily and his wealth. In a steady stream of stories, the German or Irish immigrant is converted to abstinence through the love of a child. He is rescued from his poverty by his own efforts, prospers, and becomes a respectable member of the society, usually as a small business owner. Interestingly, the child is usually led to Temperance through the dominant institutions of the society—church or school.

The implications of this doctrine of Temperance constitute an assimilationist approach to social differences. The dominant group is the tutor to the subordinates. As the social workers in Cornerville assumed that the inhabitants should be like the social workers, so the Temperance advocates assumed that the drinkers should be converted to the modes of life of the middle-class, respectable citi-zen. The assertion that Temperance is morally right and that it is a way to middle-class membership is taken for granted. Not only is Temperance legitimate to the abstainer, it is dominant in society and worthwhile for others to copy. It is in this way that the Tem-perance worker could see himself as bringing about a solution to social problems without fundamental changes in the economic or social arrangements. What could be done for the poor, the down-trodden, and the underprivileged was conceived in status terms, as methods to improve his morality. This was the first stage in eco-nomic welfare. It was presented in terms which advocated a change in customs rather than a change in the distributional systems or in the political structure.

Temperance and Social Justice

This emphasis on moral perfection as a prelude to improvement of social or economic conditions is apparent in the argument that Temperance was a solution to national problems of economic dis-tress. Temperance was also a program of social betterment as well as a doctrine of individual self-help.

Temperance literature and Temperance leaders stressed absti-nence as a program through which prosperity might be achieved. While they were sympathetic to the daims of labor for a greater share of the common production, they were also critical of the amount of money which workers spent on beer and liquor. "The central question of labor reform is not how to get higher wages but how to turn present wages to better account." 39 This was the source of Powderly's interest in the Temperance movement as one aspect of the Labor movement. He wanted workers to use their money in a more "constructive" fashion. The less spent on beer, the more there is for bread.

A fictional story in the WCTU journal illustrates this aspect of the Temperance doctrine. "The Strike at Dennis Moriarity's" is a story about factory workers on strike. Dennis, the young son of one of the strikers, is asked to bring his father and other unionists a pail of beer from the nearby saloon. He refuses, saying that even though they are on strike the workers could pay their bills if they didn't drink. The strikers are impressed and one of them says: "It's the saloon that hurts and keeps us poor. I've been wondering all this while why Debs and the rest of the leaders didn't see it." 4°

Temperance as Symbol of Middle-Class Dominance

To be sure, the upper classes were not exempt from attack as tar-gets of Temperance conversion. The idea that drinking is sophisti-cated and abstinence provincial was often mentioned as a danger-ous part of the way of life in "high society." It was, however, not the major thrust of the movement in any of its facets during the nineteenth century. The metropolitan elites who merited scorn as upholders of a cosmopolitan culture were few and irrelevant as competition in the status structures of the small town and middle-sized city. They had little impact on the school, the church, and the local community as the setters of style or the arbiters of morality. The WCTU made an attempt to reach the wealthy and the upper classes with a Committee on Drawing Room Conversions. It was short-lived.41 The very name of the committee, with its image of the British aristocracy, is a commentary on the remoteness of the upper class from interaction with the abstainer. The man of wealth was also seen by the Temperance movement as a sufferer, who risked the loss of friends and family even if he survived the threat of economic ruin.

The assimilative approach to Temperance, then, emerged as the ideology of a group who occupied a position of relative social domi-nance in American life, although subject to the strains of industrial change. Only if they perceived their style of life as the institution-ally dominant one could they have held it out to others as a route to economic and social well-being. There are many ways in which the world may appear as wicked and the evildoers called to repent and reform. The Amish see American life as wicked but they are too marginal to its culture to attempt to convert it.42 Sects often excoriate the major norms of the society in which they have devel-oped. In its assimilative spirit, the WCTU, as well as the Temper-ance movement of the late nineteenth century, was neither sectarian in this respect nor was it composed of persons who were marginal to American society. Its members belonged to major churches and were middle-class citizens of an economic and social status which spelled assurance and security.

The solutions which Temperance in its progressive phase pro-vided for the problems of an expanding industrial society were pred-icated upon the belief in the dominance of middle-class styles of life as symbols of success and prestige in American life. In holding out that style of life as the legitimate and dominant definition of respectability, the propagators of Temperance doctrine had con-fidence that power, prestige, and even income were legitimately tied to the values of the sober, industrious, and steady middle-class citizen. Before the Civil War the Temperance movement was pre-occupied with the establishment of abstinence as a norm of be-havior. In the last half of the nineteenth century they operated with the conviction that such was indeed the case: that abstinence as an ideal was a mark of middle-class membership.

In using Temperance as a vehicle for dealing with urban social problems, the middle-class citizen attempted, whatever his motiva-tions, to set the terms for mobility and justice by sponsoring the up-lift of the lowly. 'Through the doctrine of total abstinence they issued an invitation to the poor, the immigrant, and the criminal to take on the symbols of middle-class membership by reforming their styles of consumption. Perhaps nowhere is this sense of middle-class values as the gate to happiness more apparent than in those young women who formed a special corps of WCTU members pledged to marry only total abstainers. Their motto has become a clichéed image of the Temperance movement: "Lips that have touched liquor shall never touch mine." 43

This assumption of middle-class dominance of the socially domi-nant values is the source of the symbolic import of Temperance. The failure of Temperance norms to elicit approving responses in-dicates the weakness of those norms in the society. Every effort to enforce or promote a set of values has consequences for the status of its promoters. It indicates in concrete terms of imitation and repulsion the attractiveness, hence prestige, of its style of life. The social workers assume that not only are their modes of life superior to the slum dwellers, but also that the slum dwellers agree with them.

Assimilation and Polities

The major accomplishments of the WCTU lay in the fields of per-suasion and education. While Frances Willard attempted to swing the organization behind the Prohibition Party, efforts toward direct legislation of drinking were overshadowed by the intensity of the work in the schools. The Department of Scientific Temperance In-struction was the major aim of the WCTU through which this work was performed. In the 20-year period between 1882 and 1902 the WCTU succeeded in establishing laws in every state compelling some form of Temperance instruction in the public schools.44

The laws compelling Temperance instruction were, of course, one form of indirect use of coercion. They were not, however, at-tempts to change the institutions of the society so as to prohibit liquor or beer sales or drinking. They fell within the framework of conversion because they attempted to persuade the drinker and the child of the drinking family that such conduct was harmful and immoral. In doing this, the schools were only making explicit the codes of conduct which a middle-class orientation presupposed. Even without Temperance instruction laws, the McGuffey Readers had been special pleaders for temperance, sobriety, and the Prot-estant ethic in all its attributes.45

Despite this affinity between the schools and Temperance, the demand for such legislation was itself evidence that the schools could not be depended upon to complete the process of socializing children to total abstinence as the moral code of the dominant seg-ments of the society. Either teachers were not trusted to enunciate the doctrine or the cultural supports of church and family were declining in their function of socializing the next generation to the legitimacy of abstinence. The appearance of political demands was indeed a sign of the weakened position of Temperance forces in the prestige structure of American life. In depicting the changing orientations of the movements, it is now necessary to turn to orien-tations which made coercion through politics increasingly salient in the Temperance movement.

1. Gilbert Hobbs Bames, The Anti-Slavery Impulse (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1933), p. 25.

2 Robert K. Merton, "Social Problems and Sociological Theory," in R. Merton and R. Nisbet (eds.), Contemporary Social Problems (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1961), pp. 697-738, at 724.

3 The concept of "youth" as a subculture, contrasting with adult values, is discussed in Talcott Parsons, "Age and Sex in the Social Structure of the United States," American Sociological Review, 7 (October, 1942), 604-616; J. Milton Yinger, "Culture, Subculture, and Contraculture," ibid., 25 (October, 1960 ), 625-635, esp. 630-631; Bennett Berger, "On the Youthfulness of Youth Cul-tures" (unpublished manuscript, University of Illinois, 1961).

4 ThiS is now a persistent theme in American criminology beginning with the work of Edwin Sutherland. A summation of this view and recent reformu-lations can be found in Donald R. Cressey, "Crime," in Merton and Nisbet (eds.), op. cit., pp. 21-76, at 52-68. Other recent theories of crime and de-linquency using some form of reference group theory are Albert Cohen, Delin-quent Bays (Chicago: The Free Press, 1955); Daniel Glaser, "Criminality Theories and Behavioral Images," American Journal of Sociology, 61 (March, 1956), 433-445; Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin, Delinquency and Oppor-tunity (Glencoe, M.: The Free Press, 1960), Chs. 1, 3.

5 Cloward and Ohlin, op. cit., pp. 13-14.

6 Max Weber, Theory of Social and Economic Organizatian, tr. A. M. Hen-derson and Talcott Parsons (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 124.

7 ibid., p. 125.

8 This distinction between order based on domination and order based on legitimacy in Weber is discussed in Reinhard Bendix, Max Weber (New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1960), pp. 294-300. Our usage is slightly different. Weber viewed subjective acceptance of authority as a general condition of domination. We are placing our emphasis on the norm, rather than the norm-giver, and analyze just that case in which subjective acceptance is absent. This case, as in the clash of cultures, is by no means exceptional in modern societies. Our distinction between obedience based on moral consensus (legitimacy) and obedience based on the power or prestige of the norm-giver (domination) is essential. Without it we impute much more "subjective acceptance" to instihi-tional behavior than is the case. Cloward and Ohlin recognize this problem and try to solve it by a distinction between moral validity and legitimacy, but this only leads them back into the difficulty since they define legitimacy in terms of acceptance of authority. Cloward and Ohlin, op. cit., pp. 16-20.

9 Webster's dictionary shares this ambiguity, defining "norm" as "1. A rule or authoritative standard. . . . 2. Educ. A set standard of development or achievement, usually the average or median achievement of a large group." Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Sth ed., p. 677. The concept of a standard is here, as in sociological usage, often used both as "ideal" and as "typical." See Philip Selznick, "Sociological Theory and Natural Law," Natural Law Forum, 6 (1961), 84-108.

10 Alfred Kinsey et al., The Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (Phila-delphia: Saluiders, 1948).

11Gresham Sykes and David Matza, "Techniques of Neutralization," Ameri-can Sociological Review, 22 (December, 1957), 664-670.

12 Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx, quoted by Merton, Contemporary Social Prob-lems, p. 728.

13 National Education Association of the United States, The Pasadena Story (Washington, D.C.: National Education Association, 1951).

14 Pitirim Soroldn, Society, Culture and Personality (New York: Harper and Bros., 1947), p. 79.

15 For one such example see Clifford Shaw, Delinquency Areas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1929).

16 This is a major point of William F. Whyte's study of a slum community, Street-Corner Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943), p. 1. Also see Joseph D. Lohman, "Knowledge Needed for Redevelopment and the Con-trol of Slums and Blighted Areas," in Donald Bogue (ed.), Neede,d Urban and Metropolitan Research (Oxford, Ohio: Scripps Foundation, 1953), pp. 28-37, at 28-29.

17 WhYte, °P. cit., Ix 99.

18 This point is made by Timothy L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), pp. 167-168.

19 Henry May, Protestant Churches and Industrial America (New York: Harper and Bros., 1949), pp. 167-271.

20 Ibid., passim.

21 Annual Report of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (1877 ), p. 143.

22ibid (1878), PP. 12-13'

23 An illustration is taken from a report of a gospel Temperance meeting conducted by the WCTU in Philadelphia in 1878: "The second such meeting has been started in the lower part of the city. Among converts at these meetings are freshly-released convicts, professional gamblers, and would-be suicides.

24 This is taken from the WCTU weekly journal Our Union (May, 1878), p. 5. in per capita annual consumption of beer increased from 11/2 gallons in 1840 to 51/2 gallons in 1870. Daniel Dorchester, The Liquor Problem in All Ages (New York: Phillips and Hunt, 1887), p. 461. (These figures are not controlled for differences in the age composition of the population, nor do they reflect possible shifts from liquor to beer in American drinldng habits.) The belief existed that drunkenness was less condemned in the decade after the Civil War than before. See the account of drinldng in the Midwest in Henry C. Hubbart, The Older Middle West, 1840-1880 (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1938), pp. 2t34-266.

25 In addition to WCTU journals and annual reports we have relied on Miss Willard's published books and several biographies of her. Most useful of Miss Willard's works have been Glimpses of Fifty Years (Chicago: Woman's Tem-perance Publication Association, 1889); Women and Temperance (Hartford, Conn.: no publisher listed, 1883); A Wheel Within a Wheel, or How to Ride a Bicycle (New York: F. H. Revell Co., 1895). Two detached biographies of Miss Willard are Mary Earhart, Frances Willard: From Prayers to Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1944), and Ray Strachey, Frances Willard: Her Life and Her Work (New York: F. H. Revell Co., 1913).

26 Attribution of this creed to the first WCTU convention is based on E. P. Gordon, Women Torch Bearers (Evanston, Ill.: National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1924), p. 13. It was certainly in use in WCTU reports by 1879.

27 Annual Report of the NWCTU (1877), p. 136.

28 For material on Annie Wittenmyer see Ernest H. Cherrington (ed.), Standard Encyclopedia of Alcohol Reform (Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Publishing Co., 1930), pp. 2888-89. Also see Annie Wittenmyer, History of the Woman's Temperance Crusade (Philadelphia: Mrs. Annie Wittenmyer, 1878).

29 This sectional interpretation appears in remarks of Miss Willard on the suffrage issue during the convention of 1878, reported in Annual Report of the NWCTU (1878), p. 30. She said that the suffrage issue was "a green persim-mon in Maryland" but it was not so in the West. "It is a ripe one yonder on the prairies." This view is bolstered by our classification of the sectional mem-bership of convention debaters on the suffrage issue in the conventions of 1877 and 1878. There were 13 prosuffrage speakers, 8 of them from the Mid-west or West. There were 16 antisuffrage speakers, of whom 13 were from the Northeast or South.

30 Ibid. (1894), p. 447. In 1881 the WCTU organized a Department of the Relation of Intemperance to Labor and Capital. It was both ameliorative, sponsoring efforts to get laborers to abstain, and institutional, in supporting the right of laborers to organize and to strike.

31 ibid. (1879), p. 107. During the 1880's reports of this committee con-sistently reflected efforts to reform penal systems so as to have a rehabilitative function. There was constant criticism of the operations of jails and prisons.

32 The phrase appears in a WCTI.7 committee report dealing with ways to save "fallen women." Ibid. (1884), pp. 47-51. The entire work of such com-mittees during the 1880's and 1890's was directed toward this assimilative goal. Women were to be rescued from sin by being taught good habits and moral character. There seemed little doubt that the women might resent such concern for their character and relish their sin.

33 In 1870 there were 14 cities in the United States with a population of 100,000 or more. By 1900 there were 38 such cities. Wilbur Hallenbeck, American Urban Communities (New York: Harper and Bros., 1951), p. 55.

34 See the discussion of the status revolution experienced by these groups in Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1955), Ch. 4.

35 The Union Signal (May 16, 1889), p. 3.

36 The list of officers, with home addresses, was taken from state WCTU reports. Occupations of the husbands were obtained from city directories. We were restricted to such states, and city units within them, for which reports during the 1880's were available and for which comparable city directories were available at the national WCTU Library and the Library of Congress.

37 Annual Report of the NWCTU (1874), p. 2,3.

38 The Union Signal ( January 1, 1883), p. 6.

39 Willard, Glimpses of Fifty Y ears, pp. 412-415.

40 The Union Signal (October 11, 1894), pp. 2-3.

41 This committee was led by several WCTU women of upper-class urban background, such as Mary Hanchett Hunt. By holding exclusive meetings in parlors and as garden parties, they hoped to reach potential adherents who were repelled by the middle-class status of the movement. It was an unsuc-cessful venture. Committee reports of the 1890's expressed great disappoint-ments.

42 ThiS is based on Walter Kollmorgen, "The Older Order Amish of Lancastem County, Pennsylvania," condensed in Joseph Gittler, Social Dynamics ( New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952 ), pp. 110-129.

43 For a news account of how feminine charm was enlisted in the cause of abstinence see the story of this corps in The New York Tribune (August 20, 1896), p. 16.

44  This was the work of the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction of the WCTU. Led by Mary Hanchett Hunt, its members not ony obtained legislation compelling Temperance study but also wrote or influenced the con-tent and choice of textboolcs. WCTU domination of text content in this area continued until the 1940's, when the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies provided the first major competition. For analysis of the scope and possible effects of this work see Anna Roe, A Survey of Alcohol Education (New Haven, Conn.: Quarterly journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1943), and Norton Mezvinsky, "Sci-entific Temperance Education in the Schools," History of Education Quarterly, 1 ( March, 1961), 48-56.

45 The McGuffey Readers introduced a Temperance ethic as part of the general model of character. For an analysis of the content of McGuffey Readers see Richard Mosier, The Making of the American Mind (New York: King's Crown Press, 1947).

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