Clean Living Movements:
American Cycles of Health Reform
Ruth Clifford Engs. Praeger Press: Westport,
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AND CLEAN LIVING MOVEMENTS
Based upon what has happened in America's
two previous Clean Living Movements, I am predicting that the current
health reform movement will dissipate within two or three years in the
aftermath of September 11, 2001. National attention, along with personnel,
money, and material, will shift from perceived health issues, such as
college student drinking or youthful smoking, to the major dangers
threatening the way-of-life or even survival of the nation. The
health crusades of the 1980s-1990s will become trivial, and likely
forgotten, in a generation. See the Epilog of Clean
Living Movement for other predictions.
An update March 19, 2003: Several
months after "9/11" Americans went back to "business as usual" as daily
concerns about another attack waned. Issues of the current Clean Living
Movement, such as the anti-tobacco crusade, did not abate. As this
crusade intensified again, further restrictions against smoking
were mandated in some states and communities. In addition lawsuits
against "fast food" chains for making "people fat" arose. Alcohol,
tobacco, drugs, and food issues have traditionaly been part of Clean
However, I would predict, that if American conflict in Iraq is lenghtly,
if it involves attacks upon continental United States
and if armed conflicts should develop in other regions, that interest in
current health reform issues that involve personal behaviors would
dissipate. As mentioned in the material from
Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform, (see below)
historically, armed conflicts that lasted several years such as the War
Between the States (Civil War) and World War I (the Great War) haulted
the momentum of health reform issues that related to personal behaviors.
The following information
is taken from Ruth Clifford Engs.
LIVING MOVEMENTS: AMERICAN CYCLES OF HEALTH REFORM. Praeger:
Westport CT (2000, 2001)
Real wars, (as opposed to health-reform “wars”) have played an important
role in halting reform movements and [have] tended to make crusades for
various health-related issues, such as
irrelevant (Walters 1978, x). Both the Civil War and World War I halted
the momentum of the First and the Second Clean Living Movements respectively.
In the aftermath of wars there has been an increase in the use of mood-altering
substances among soldiers which may have been caused by exposure through
medicine, commercial interests, and social pressure. After the Revolutionary
War, there was an increase in alcohol consumption which peaked in 1830.
It began to decrease after this time and continued to do so until after
the Civil War. Following this war came an increase in tobacco use and also
morphine addiction among war veterans. Following the First and the Second
World Wars, cigarette smoking spiraled upward. Alcohol use increased after
the Second World War and did not peak until 1980. Following the Vietnam
War an upsurge in the use of many mood-altering substances, including illicit
drugs, occurred, which also peaked around 1980.24
24. (p. 20)
For statistics concerning the ebb and flow of tobacco and alcohol consumption,
see in particular Rorabaugh (1978, 232-233) and Heimann (1960, 248-249).
During both the First and Second World War cigarettes were passed out to
soldiers as will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Eight [of this
Several works [have discussed] in detail cycles of religious awakenings
and their ensuing political and socioeconomic changes. See in particular
McLoughlin (1978) and Fogel (1995). Strauss and Howe (1998), in their recent
popular work, [have discussed] four sub-cycles--“turnings”--within
the overall 80 to 110 year awakening cycles. The first turning of the cycle
is the “high” which tends to be a post-societal crisis boom era when things
are going well and there is a high degree of optimism. The second, “the
awakening” begins a rebellion against tradition and reform for perceived
problems in the society. The “third turning” or “unraveling” is when health-reform
and other crusades come to a peak and there is a feeling of hopelessness,
or "fourth turning,” is a period of profound social crisis such as war
deep economic depression that dramatically shakes the pillars
of society. Based upon this schematic, the health reform movements discussed
in this book have emerge in the “awakening” stages. They peak and begin
to ebb in the “unraveling”[and die in the "crisis."](fn 1., p.
16, emphasis added).
Epilogue from CLEAN LIVING MOVEMENTS
I have attempted to show
that over the past 200 years a health-reform movement, has emerged about
every 80 years. These clean-living cycles surged with, or were tangential
to, a religious awakening. Simultaneously with these awakening, out-groups
such immigrants and/or youth were seen to exhibit behaviors that contributed
to the undermining of society. Fear of these dangerous classes and a desire
to eliminate disease, crime, poverty and other perceived health or social
problems, on the part of the middle classes, led to crusades in each of
the three reform eras against alcohol, tobacco, drugs, meat, impure food
and certain sexual behaviors. Reformers in each era claimed that, based
upon the latest evidence, these activities were extremely detrimental to
America’s physical, mental, social or spiritual health. The substances
or behaviors were demonized and reformers claimed that it was now time
to eliminate them completely from society.
The desire for improved
health and social change also led to campaigns in favor of exercise, semi-vegetarian
diets, women’s rights, chastity, and eugenics. In each movement, alternative
religions were founded that adopted some aspect of health reform as dogma.
reform aspect of each cycle, a new infectious disease
threatened the population, and alternative treatment modalities emerged
some of which were later incorporated into orthodox medicine and public
health interests. Over each succeeding cycle, reformers became more likely
to represent grass roots beliefs, or even to be state or federal officials,
rather than independent activists.
The reform aspect of each
sub-movement, within the overall Clean Living Movement, lasted approximately
25 to 40 years. Anti-alcohol and tobacco campaigns tended to have a longer
duration compared to pro-exercise or dietary change crusades. Both moral
suasion and sanctions of various kinds were used to convince people to
adopt certain modes of behavior. Eugenics surged as other issues crested
or were on the wane. A backlash emerged among some segments of the population
against reform efforts when the crusades were most strident. After the
reform surge of the movement had dissipated, laws made during the reform
era often became ignored or repealed. During the 30 to 40 year ebb of the
cycle, with a few exceptions, the memory of the
movement disappeared from public awareness.
Today, at the turn of
the twenty-first century, many sub-movements within the Millennial Clean
Living Movement have crested and are beginning to wane. However, it still
too early to know what ramifications these movements may have for the future
or when they will cease to be important to society. Based upon the patterns
of the waxing and waning of the different health reform issues presented
in this work, I would like to offer a few speculative guesses as to the
course of certain issues.
I anticipate that
eugenic concerns will continue to increase and may reach a peak about 2020.
There will be increasing controversy concerning genetic background and
biotechnology in terms of jobs, insurance, and health care expenditures.
Concerns about diet and
exercise will continue to wane and will be of little
interest to today’s youth as they age. This in turn will result in an upturn
of chronic diseases before 2020. By 2010 the legal purchase age for alcohol
will be lowered in certain circumstances, marijuana will increasing be
allowed for medical purposes, and be legal for sale in some states for
recreational use. By 2020, tobacco use, in some form, will again become
fashionable. The neo-purity movement will continue to surge and reach a
peak about 2015, youthful chastity will be an accepted norm among the middle
class, and increasing numbers of middle-class women will work out of their
homes in order to care for their children. Some of the new-age religions
will become mainstream by 2030. A new religious awakening, and in its wake,
the Fourth Clean Living Movement will rise again around 2040 (p. 267-268).
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