Drinking and moral order: Drunken comportment revisited

by Eivind Grip Fjær and Willy Pedersen

Journal cover

Addiction Research and Theory


"Drinking and moral order: Drunken comportment revisited." Addiction Research & Theory, 2015, Vol.23(6), pp.449-458

ISSN: 1606-6359

DOI: 10.3109/16066359.2015.1028922


MacAndrew and Edgerton's seminal Drunken Comportment revealed that normative expectations to drunken behaviour differ greatly across cultures. Such variation also exists within cultures, where different drinking contexts may be associated with great normative variation. However, why social regulation of drunken comportment varies has largely been left unexplored.

To examine the basis of such differences, two Norwegian drinking contexts are compared: (i) the high school graduation celebration and (ii) the two introduction weeks at university. Data comprise 71 qualitative interviews and field notes from participant observation.

The two practices take place within a time span of only four months and involve many of the same participants. Alcohol plays a key role in both contexts. However, while the first context allows for heavy intoxication, sexual explorations and violating norms that ordinarily regulate behaviour in public, the second context is associated with much more control.

We argue that the basis of this difference may be found in the differing value priorities of these practices, with participants' behaviour being guided primarily by hedonism and social integration, respectively. When applied to drinking practices in general this conceptual apparatus might elucidate the basis of context-specific norms and intra-cultural variation in drunken comportment.

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Published Sep. 22, 2016 1:25 PM - Last modified June 21, 2018 1:44 PM