Moral Elites in the Danish Temperance Movement (1910–1919): Elite Struggles over Disease and Values

Anders Sevelsted*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


    The chapter maps out the elite of the early Danish temperance movement and shows how distinct moral elites within the movement interpreted the cause according to their respective value frames while integrating the emerging disease frame of alcoholism. Theoretically, it argues for introducing the thus far estranged perspectives of elite studies and framing approaches to each other. The concept of moral elite is consequently introduced and defined as an elite that is rich in the resources on which moral authority is built, here limited to educational resources, organizational resources, and publications. The chapter applies a mixed methods design. First, social network analysis (SNA) is applied to a unique dataset comprising biographical information on 28 temperance leaders found in the Danish Who’s Who. The analysis reveals three distinct clusters within the temperance elite. Analyzing texts by the most prolific authors shows that each of the three clusters has a distinct profile: an elite dominated by medical doctors and theologians who articulate a traditional value frame according to which medical doctors and pastors carry a responsibility for the community – a responsibility that is expanded through philanthropy and specialized institutions; a revivalist elite of theologians and laymen who pursue a revivalist Holiness and civil society frame emphasizing faith’s healing abilities and the importance of organizing beyond the national church; and an organic elite that represented small farmers and workers and pushed an Enlightenment frame of direct democracy, rule of law, and education. The second part of the analysis shows how each elite cluster integrated the “alcoholism as a disease” belief frame in their value frames: traditional elites as a cause for institutionalization, revivalist elites as a reason to bolster the resilience in the population through faith, and the organic elite as a reason to promote self-care and education. In the final sections of the chapter, I tease out how the moral elite perspective may have implications for social movement research, especially in terms of holding movement elites accountable.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Power of Morality in Movements : Civic Engagement in Climate Justice, Human Rights, and Democracy
    EditorsAnders Sevelsted, Jonas Toubøl
    Number of pages25
    Place of PublicationCham
    Publication date2023
    ISBN (Print)9783030987978, 9783030988005
    ISBN (Electronic)9783030987985
    Publication statusPublished - 2023
    SeriesNonprofit and Civil Society Studies

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: 08 November 2022.


    • Moral elite
    • Temperance movement
    • Framing
    • Social network analysis
    • Mixed methods
    • Who's who

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