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Social science involvement in alcohol studies began after the 1933 repeal of Prohibition in the USA. Social scientists promoted the conception of alcoholism as a disease rather than as a moral weakness. The most sustained social science analysis of advertising has concerned the role it plays in gender socialization. The dependence of drinking outcomes on cultural norms is a key contribution of social science. There are, however, few widely adopted aetiological theories of alcohol abuse and alcoholism that are based in social science. In general, however, social science research on alcoholism is vastly overshadowed by the emphasis on biological aetiology and increasingly upon the potential of biomedical intervention. Fruitful social science research potential lies in understanding the dynamics of the various paradigms that ebb and flow across time and across nations, paradigms around which cultural conceptions of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are organized.