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Book Sections Year : 2011

The Culture of Drug Policy


The term culture is used in many ways and has many meanings, but we can define it, roughly, as follows: a set of spiritual, axiological and cognitive traits (values, norms, knowledge, meanings, representations), which, together with material ones (arts, traditions, techniques, etc.), are shared to varying degrees by a community of individuals and work to shape specific, distinctive ways of thinking, judging and acting. Understood in these terms, culture is a valid means of distinguishing between widely varying social entities. We readily speak, for example, of national cultures, professional cultures, subcultures (cultures of sub-groups), and company cultures. To counter common-sense beliefs and analytic reductions that conceive drug users as all alike (the grim generic figure of the junkie has been an obsessive focus clouded the vision of public opinion and politicians) and their way of “operating” as heteronomous (“drug users are anthropologically or biologically different from ‘us’”), the humanities and social sciences have worked to provide both an “image of diversity” (Mignon and Ehrenberg 1992) and one of unity: diversity of users, uses, substances used, ways of using them, contexts in which they are used, meanings attributed to them, etc., yet anthropological unity, in that users ultimately prove to have the same abilities and skills as the rest of humanity. “Cultural variables” are often called on to support these two observations. The social and human sciences have explored in great detail the role of culture (cultures) in producing not just national or regional singularities and differences, but also differences among social groups. They have been at equal pains to resituate “drug-users” within the human community, by showing that their culture (or subculture), social practices and worlds, despite their variability and particularities, in fact reveal the existence of anthropological invariants. [premières phrases]


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hal-02536795 , version 1 (08-04-2020)



Henri Bergeron. The Culture of Drug Policy. Henri Bergeron; Geoffrey Hunt; Maitena Milhet; Henri Bergeron. Drugs and Culture: Knowledge, Consumption and Policy, Ashgate Publishing, pp.273 - 294, 2011, 9781409405436. ⟨hal-02536795⟩
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