Pathways to Prohibition

Radicals, Moderates, and Social Movement Outcomes

Pathways to Prohibition

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 19 tables, 10 figures Published: August 2003

History > U.S. History, Politics > Political Science, Sociology

Strategies for gradually effecting social change are often dismissed as too accommodating of the status quo. Ann-Marie E. Szymanski challenges this assumption, arguing that moderation is sometimes the most effective way to achieve change. Pathways to Prohibition examines the strategic choices of social movements by focusing on the fates of two temperance campaigns. The prohibitionists of the 1880s gained limited success, while their Progressive Era counterparts achieved a remarkable—albeit temporary—accomplishment in American politics: amending the United States Constitution. Szymanski accounts for these divergent outcomes by asserting that choice of strategy (how a social movement defines and pursues its goals) is a significant element in the success or failure of social movements, underappreciated until now. Her emphasis on strategy represents a sharp departure from approaches that prioritize political opportunity as the most consequential factor in campaigns for social change.

Combining historical research with the insights of social movement theory, Pathways to Prohibition shows how a locally based, moderate strategy allowed the early-twentieth-century prohibition crusade both to develop a potent grassroots component and to transcend the limited scope of local politics. Szymanski describes how the prohibition movement’s strategic shift toward moderate goals after 1900 reflected the devolution of state legislatures’ liquor licensing power to localities, the judiciary’s growing acceptance of these local licensing regimes, and a collective belief that local electorates, rather than state legislatures, were best situated to resolve controversial issues like the liquor question. "Local gradualism" is well suited to the porous, federal structure of the American state, Szymanski contends, and it has been effectively used by a number of social movements, including the civil rights movement and the Christian right.


"Pathways to Prohibition addresses an important problem: why the prohibitionists attracted widespread support in the statewide referenda of the Progressive Era. . . . Prohibition in the United States was a densely woven fabric, and Anne-Marie Szymanski deserves a toast with something stronger than cold water for her proficient tracing of one of its prominent, but previously overlooked, threads." — Jack S. Blocker , Social History of Alcohol and Drugs

"[A] rigorously analytical survey of national Prohibition's strategic and tactical origins." — Ian Tyrell , Journal of American History

"[S]ophisticated and meticulous. . . . [A]n innovative and well-researched exploration of the political dimension of the Anti-Saloon League campaign, brimming with information." — Madelon Powers , American Historical Review

"[T]his book has much to recommend it. Pathways to Prohibition is a fresh look at the Temperance Movement and brings to light key factors that influenced the outcome of the cause. It offers much to those interested specifically in the anti-liquor cause as well as those who study the dynamics of social movements." — Robert Allen Goldberg , Contemporary Sociology

"[The book's] theoretical and interdisciplinary approach, coupled with Szymanski's thoughtful theoretical summary and application, helpful to even the most inexperienced social theorist. In the end, the anti-liquor movement, as Szymanski convincingly presents, offers a valuable lens into the shape and character of American reform and her conclusions force us to rethink paradigms of radicalism within social movements." — Jeffery A. Johnson , American Studies International

"Drawing extensively on the vast array of primary sources, and integrating much from the extensive secondary literature, Szymanski compares the relative successes of the prohibition movement in two periods. . . . Szymanski's work melds the insights of scholars who explained the successes of social movements by their internal dynamics and those who explained them by the external factors of political environments." — Richard F. Hamm , Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"In an era when structuralist models still largely dominate social movement theories, Szymanski's study of the role of political strategies in determining outcomes of social movements is especially interesting and valuable. . . . [T]his is a well-written and very insightful book. It is not only a valuable addition to the study of temperance movements, but also an important contribution to the expanding literature of American political development and the study of social movements." — Xi Chen, American Journal of Sociology

"Outstanding research and superior conceptualization of variables mark this unusually specific study of group and movements success in the attainment of tangible public policy goals. . . . Highly recommended." — W.P. Brown , Choice

"Pathways to Prohibition develops an interesting and convincing analysis that any student of movements and American political history would find useful to explore." — Kent Reading , Mobilization

Pathways to Prohibition skillfully employs case materials from the temperance movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to frame and answer a critical question for social movement theory and research: what accounts for the success or failure of social movements? I believe it will make an important contribution to the field.” — Mark Wolfson, author of The Fight against Big Tobacco: The Movement, the State, and the Public’s Health

"Pathways to Prohibition effectively argues a distinctive claim: moderation is (sometimes) the path to success. This important claim contradicts the value hierarchy in which more radical forms of action are assumed to be morally superior and more effective. Ann-Marie E. Szymanski directs attention to a host of more moderate forms of mobilization in American political history that have been dismissed as irrevocably compromised." — Elisabeth Clemens, author of The People’s Lobby: Organizational Innovation and the Rise of Interest Group Politics in the United


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ann-Marie E. Szymanski is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Figures ix

List of Tables xi

Acknowledgments xiii

1. Political Strategy and Social Movement Outcomes 1

2. Churches, Lodges, and Dry Organizing 23

3. Modular Collective Action in a Federalist System 65

4. Legislative Supremacy and the Definition of Movement Goals 89

5. Political Alignments, Party Systems, and Prohibition 122

6. The Dynamics of Local Gradualism in the States 153

7. Turning Moderates into Radicals 182

8. Local Gradualism and American Social Movements 198

Notes 219

Selected Bibliography 301

Index 317
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3169-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3181-0
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