Alcoholics Anonymous As a Mutual-Help Movement: A Study in Eight Societies

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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has an estimated worldwide membership of two million. This collaborative study offers the first comprehensive look at AA as a social movement, a belief system, a model for small group interactions, and a truly international phenomenon. The international success of AA is evidence that a system of thought and a program of action developed in middle-class North America in the 1930s can be adapted and made relevant in cultural environments as diverse as the slums of Mexico City, the factory towns of Poland, and the farm villages of Switzerland.
    The authors look at what actually happens in an AA meeting, how members interact, and how the AA model fits into widely varying cultural traditions. The book includes the early history of AA and its organizational principles, its international growth, and its present structure, finances, and membership. The chapters pay particular attention to the relationships of belief and action in AA, the role of written and oral tradition in the transmission of the beliefs, and cultural variations in the content of the belief system. Because AA is a mutual-help movement, the authors contrast it with professional health care of various kinds, including 12-step programs, and compare it with alternative mutual-aid organizations.
    The book draws on an abundance of data, including surveys, observation, in-depth talks with members, and a wealth of unpublished documents pertaining to AA in Austria, Finland, Iceland, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. The authors analyze AA’s organizational guidelines as an innovative code of principles for non-hierarchic and non-bureaucratic social structures, and suggest that AA is the prototype for an emerging social form.

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Editorial Reviews

Presents the results of a study of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) phenomenon in the US, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, and Mexico, examining AA as an international movement and detailing how AA activities are adapted to various cultures. Looks at AA as a social movement and social network, as a belief system, and as a system of interaction, outlining the history of the group and discussing its relation to professional treatment. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299150006
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1996
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 The place of AA among social movements 8
3 The early years of AA in the United States and Canada 19
4 The international diffusion and structure of AA 25
5 Organizational principles of AA 43
6 The local structure of AA and AA as a social network 52
7 Regional and national service structure 73
8 The finances of AA 85
9 The membership of AA 96
10 The AA program as a set of beliefs and as a program for action 117
11 The AA meeting as a speech event 133
12 Practicing the AA program 153
13 Men, women, and AA 170
14 AA and the professional treatment system 185
15 AA and other mutual-help movements for alcohol problems 207
16 Diffusion of the 12-step program to problems other than alcohol 216
17 The AA movement in perspective 239
18 Implications for professional practice and research programming 253
Appendix A. Organization and methods of work of the International Collaborative Study of Alcoholics Anonymous (ICSAA) 259
Appendix B. Collection of interviews, observations, life stories, and other qualitative data 261
Appendix C. Group, meeting, and membership surveys 267
Appendix D. Basic AA Texts 274
References 276
Index of Personal Names 298
Subject Index 303
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