The second installment in our continuing series of author interviews features Mark Lawrence Schrad, author of The Political Power of Bad Ideas: Networks, Institutions, and the Global Prohibition Wave (Oxford University Press, 2010). Mark Schrad is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. After checking out the interview, readers may also wish to learn more about his current book project, Vodka Politics.
Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.
Most people think of temperance and prohibition as a uniquely American phenomena, but as I demonstrate in The Political Power of Bad Ideas, temperance was one of the very first transnational social movements, and was truly global in scope. Moreover, nationwide alcohol prohibition was adopted in ten other countries and countless colonial possessions in addition to (and in most cases even before) the United States, all with similar disastrous consequences, and in every case followed by repeal.
On the one hand, my book places the American experience with temperance and prohibition in its proper international context. On the other, I use this seemingly bizarre global event—the rapid international diffusion of a “bad” policy idea in the form of prohibition—to say something about how ideas travel, and how they are filtered within different domestic policymaking structures.
With these dual objectives in mind—one historical, and one theoretical—the book doesn’t read like a standard historical monograph.