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Top Night: Social Protest, Masculinity and the Culture of Drinking Violence

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 37 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1997) Pages: 90-102
S Tomsen
Date Published
13 pages
This article seeks to determine whether there is a relationship between drinking, violence and social disorder and, if such a relationship exists, the nature of the connection.
Although a wide research literature suggests a regular connection between drinking, violence and social disorder, much doubt remains as to the actual nature and significance of this link. Some strong insights into this are provided by a dual consideration of the tie between masculine social identity and heavy group drinking, and the importance of issues of male honor in the social interaction that leads to much violent behavior. Data from an ethnographic study of assaults in public drinking venues illuminate the subjective experience of participation in acts of disorder and violence. This is filtered through understandings of certain forms and aspects of popular leisure as entailing social protest and resistance to middle-class morality. This study concludes that, although there is no direct and obvious tie between violence and the use of alcohol, there is a complex powerful link between many incidents of public violence and the social process of collective drinking. This link is built around cultural understandings of the connections between rowdy and violent group drinking, the construction and projection of an empowered masculine identity, and the symbolic rejection of respectable social values. Notes, glossary, references