At another level, however, this book addresses a blind spot that seems particularly to affect academic researchers. Many recovering people have good reasons for not inquiring into the intellectual genealogies of their programs. For good or ill, their interests in recovery philosophy are primarily practical. Later chapters discuss the fact that they may even be urged by those around them not to take an overly analytical or intellectual view of their program lest they derail their quests for sobriety. The same is not true, however, for academics, whose lack of knowledge of and incuriosity about recovery is often so complete as to seem decidedly willful. While the well-educated humanist or qualitative social scientist is expected to have at least a passing familiarity with the standard premises of psychoanalysis, the recovery movement’s most basic history and its structuring ideas are, for all intents and purposes, a terra incognita to most such scholars. Therefore, a second aim of this book is to establish recovery—its history, its organizing principles, and its culture, among other things—as a legitimate subject for sustained scholarly analysis.There are exceptions to this rule of academic neglect, of course. Existing scholarly research on recovery falls into two general categories, and though neither type of work has sought to answer the cultural questions that I find most compelling, I have drawn heavily on both while writing this book. First and not surprisingly, an abundant body of research has explored the medical/psychological and public health dimensions of 12-Step approaches to alcoholism and other addictions. Since it began to be generated during the late 1940s, the vast bulk of this scholarship has centered on questions of efficacy: does 12-Step recovery, with its focus on abstinence and spirituality, successfully break addictive habits? This practical question would seem well suited to empirical social scientific inquiry, but the ‘‘Anonymous’’ nature of 12-Step culture means that collecting meaningful data on the topic is and always has been difficult. Moreover, much research on this question is fiercely partisan, undertaken by scholars whose stakes in particular treatment protocols (and the private and governmental funds that legitimate them) often seem to predetermine their research outcomes. As a result, the question of whether, how, and to what degree 12-Step approaches to addiction are effective remains largely unresolved.
A new book offers a wide ranging look at addiction as a cultural phenomena. The description of the tension with academia is interesting: