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Force of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Book Review Sample)


A Brief History of Drug Use in Western Cultures - Book Review Assignment Writing an academic book review of David Courtright�s Forces of Habit. Source:1


Force of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World
Courtwright’s Forces of habit presents readers with an grand interpretation of a rather challenging subject; the evolution of drug use plus drug policy over time across continents. Luckily, Courtwright appears to do it without holding anything back. It is worth noting that most books analyzing this subject transcend a purely descriptive and adopt a sensationalistic approach without analysis. Nevertheless, Courtwright manages to come up with a book that is serious about a serious subject and it fun to read too. The book does well in explaining how the world got to where it is in relation to drugs, and succeeds in large measure through focusing on the camaraderie across various substances. Most importantly to a reader, the book’s central insight rests on the fact that most psycho-active substances reveal similar histories when seen from a broad view. Altogether, readers are shown that it is where substances have emerged at the convergence of history that largely determines whether a substance is subjected to stern prohibition or seen as a commodity of routine commerce.
Clearly, the author of this work sees a society that is probably enmeshed with drugs. Courtwright gives an account of an individual who is obsessed with chocolate in all its forms. As such, the individual “badgered his wife for ground chocolate…to soothe his piles”. In fact, in the modern world, a cake has to have chocolate “and black inside from chocolate…” (p 23). Nonetheless, chocolate is among the many psychoactive substances presented to a reader. In doing this, Courtwright wanted to illustrate that drugs have virtually become part of the society. For him, it is certain that chocolate is part of the drugs and this is evidenced through his understanding that a drug is any “psychoactive substance”, illicit or otherwise plus whether it is meant for medical and non-medical use (p 2). In giving such an example, the book does well in showing readers that the society has decided to legalize or ban some substances. As such, it is rather difficult to avoid drugs in our current world. Indeed, according to the author, drugs include caffeinated plus alcoholic beverages, cannabis, tobacco and the so called hard drugs (for instance cocaine and heroin) as well as other mind-altering substances commonly in use. All in all, the author ends up by acknowledging the sheer number of various drugs making it impossible to address them all.
However, the book does not make its readers guess about this important subject. It terms the most prevalent drugs including tobacco, alcohol plus caffeine by labeling them “the big three” (p 9). On the other hand, readers are notified about the other three most vital but less frequently used drugs (opium, cocoa plus cannabis) by labeling them “the little three” (p 31). Most likely, readers already know about these drugs and Courtwright’s work goes a step further to reveal other less known psychoactive substances such as those confined to small regions including East Africa’s Kava. In doing this, the book manages to give examples of extensive use of drugs in different populations. In fact, locals may not see such substances as drugs. As the author insinuates, this is because of licit status plus extensive use. Most vital, Courtwright’s work manages to envelop the world as he takes his readers through the ancient plus modern origins of several habituating substances. In achieving this, the author considers substances’ use plus abuse throughout the decades, and analyzes their importance as determined by aspects such as politics, trade and culture. Also, the book utilizes an expansive lens by zooming in and concentrating on descriptive case histories including the story of J. Duke plus the cigarette industry as well as the debilitating impacts of opium in China. Altogether, the extensive information used by the author takes readers to another level in terms of knowledge.
As a historian, the author’s techniques entails vigilantly tracking drug’s movement all over the planet plus through time, examining the cultural, commercial as well as psychological aspects for the drugs’ popularity. As an example, the reader is given an account for coffee’s prevalence across the planet. In doing this, the book does a fantastic job by following the trail of the globe’s most popular plus profitable caffeinated beverage. Indigenous to Ethiopia, the substance first extends to Arabia and then to other places including the fact that “Apollo 11 astronauts were drinking coffee…hours after landing… ”(p 21). Such messages serve the book well in stressing its information about drugs across the world. In addition, the book illustrates the manner in which market driven forces plus moral reasoning have shaped drug’s use. The author reveals why particular once illegal drugs are deemed licit today, plus why some formerly licit drugs are now stringently controlled and or banned altogether. Though, he also acknowledges the world’s reality in banning some drugs by admitting that ...
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