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Prohibition as a bad idea (book)

Mark Lawrence Schrad, The Power of a Bad Idea: Networks, Institutions, and the Global Prohibition Wave (Oxford UP, February 2010).  

From his website:

    In The Political Power of Bad Ideas, Mark Lawrence Schrad casts off the conventional assumptions that policymakers rationally mimic best policy practices in order to understand a curious international development: how a “wave” of alcohol prohibition--well-known to contemporaries as a bad policy idea--swept Europe and North America with the outbreak of World War I.

    Original quantitative data and extensive archival research in Russia, Sweden and the United States provide the foundation not only for a better understanding of this historical development, but also for broader theorization about the forces shaping policy debates and outcomes in different national settings. 

    The growth of a robust transnational temperance advocacy network in the nineteenth century paved the way for policy action by diffusing a wide spectrum of policy-relevant ideas across numerous countries; the crisis of World War provided the catalyst, while the resulting policy trajectories were influenced by the institutional structure of decisionmaking in each country. The activation of institutional mechanisms of positive policy feedback, and the mobilization of normative policy-relevant ideational elements facilitated the adoption of prohibition in autocratic Russia and a society-dominated United States, while the institutional mechanisms of negative policy feedback and the mobilization of cognitive policy-relevant ideational elements proved resistant to widespread pressures for the bad policy of prohibition in corporatist Sweden. 
    Walking in the footsteps of Peter Hall’s edited classic, The Political Power of Economic Ideas, Schrad goes beyond the simplistic notion that “ideas matter” by articulating how and why they exert influence in different institutional contexts--examining how they “fit” or interact with national political actors, institutions, and  policy dynamics. By advancing our understanding of an important chapter in world history and the confluence of ideas and institutions, this book will be of interest to scholars of American politics, international relations, comparative politics, sociology, and American, European and Russian history.

Posted by David Fahey on November 28, 2009 at 05:36 PM in Books, Prohibition, Russia, Sweden, United States | Permalink