Fourteen: ‘Binge drinking’, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related disorder: examining the 2003 Licensing Act

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The terms ‘anti-social behaviour’ and ‘disorder’ are often used interchangeably, particularly when discussing behaviour under the influence of alcohol. This chapter locates the patterns of behaviour commonly termed ‘binge drinking’ within spatial, economic and cultural changes associated with the growth of the night-time economy of cities and towns in the United Kingdom since 1987. It also discusses recent policy interventions in respect of licensing hours, regulation and ‘liberalisation’. It argues that a failure to contextualise properly ‘binge drinking’ within significant shifts in leisure and consumption patterns, and to acknowledge the potential for long-run negative consequences (for individuals, social networks and communities), has led to a myopic focus in recent policies on ‘harm reduction’ and on seeking to limit alcohol-related disorder. This policy vacuum is illustrated in the underlying tension between competing ideologies of the ‘citizen’ and the ‘consumer’. This chapter also looks at the alcohol industry and Licensing Act of 2003.

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