Prohibition: a law, a fact and a crisis

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Theodore Georgopoulos

Theodore Georgopoulos is Director of the Wine & Law Program of the Faculty of Law of Reims, holder of the Jean Monnet Chair in European Wine Law, President of the Georges Chappaz Wine Institute in Champagne and President of AIDV, international association of lawyers in vine and vine law.

Enforced by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, Prohibition is a unique modern day experiment in regulating alcohol consumption.

It provides insight into the relationship between law and morality and questions the ability of law to replace free will in consumer habits. In this sense, the decision to run America dry raises questions about the effectiveness of legal regulations in general.

However, Prohibition is much more than a question of legal history. As a historical fact, it had a profound influence on 20th century Western civilization. Economics, art, philosophy and even language and communication bear the imprint of this period in trying to integrate or simply express it. In this sense, Prohibition has changed the way we think about alcohol, its consumption and even the place of the individual in society and the state.

Finally, Prohibition is a crisis in the first sense of the term: by questioning in a fundamental, intense and lasting way the structures and visions of its time, it forces us to think about alternative solutions for the regulation of alcohol consumption, not only in the 1920s, but also for today and for the future.

On the occasion of the centenary of the Volstead Act, the Georges Chappaz Institute for Vine and Wine in Champagne at the University of Reims organized an international conference in November 2019 to address this multifaceted history. This digital platform follows on from this conference.

This post is also available in French