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Surely the absence of a sociology of morality has to be one of the major weaknesses of academic sociology, and a mysterious one at that. For Durkheim, one of sociology's founding fathers, morality was to have a central place as an object of inquiry; moreover, he was passionately interested in it on the existential level, as was Weber.
Moral struggles in and around markets abound in contemporary societies where markets have become the dominant form of economic coordination. Reviewing research on morality…
Moral struggles in and around markets abound in contemporary societies where markets have become the dominant form of economic coordination. Reviewing research on morality and markets across disciplinary boundaries, this introductory essay suggests that a moral turn can currently be observed in scholarship, and draws a direct connection to recent developments in the sociology of morality. The authors introduce the chapters in the present volume “The Contested Moralities of Markets.” In doing so, the authors distinguish three types of moral struggles in and around markets: struggles around morally contested markets where the exchange of certain goods on markets is contested; struggles within organizations that are related to an organization’s embeddedness in complex institutional environments with competing logics and orders of worth; and moral struggles in markets where moral justifications are mobilized by a variety of field members who act as moral entrepreneurs in their striving for moralizing the economy. Finally, the authors highlight three properties of moral struggles in contemporary markets: They (1) arise over different objects, (2) constitute political struggles, and (3) are related to two broader social processes: market moralization and market expansion. The introduction concludes by discussing some of the theoretical approaches that allow particular insights into struggles over morality in markets. Collectively, the contributions in this volume advance our current understanding of the contested moralities of markets by highlighting the sources, processes, and outcomes of moral struggles in and around markets, both through tracing the creation, reproduction, and change of underlying moral orders and through reflecting the status and power differentials, alliances, and political strategies as well as the general cultural, social, and political contexts in which the struggles unfold.
Purpose – Due to an absence of dialogue between sociology and the neurosciences, the scientific study of morality largely ignores cultural and structural influences. This…
Purpose – Due to an absence of dialogue between sociology and the neurosciences, the scientific study of morality largely ignores cultural and structural influences. This chapter offers a synthetic approach integrating these separate disciplines to aid a more complete understanding of morality.
Design/methodology/approach – This chapter reviews morality's bonding (a sense of groupness and belonging) and bounding (reproducing and reinforcing group boundaries) qualities across disciplines, and proposes three provisional principles to systematize an interdisciplinary model of morality. We then offer a preliminary illustration of how this model might be operationalized with functional MRI data.
Findings – Our proposed principles (as exemplified by our illustrative example) suggest that the sociology-neurology gap in understanding the domain of morality might shrink through an engagement with the underlying neural mechanisms that encompass issues of empathy, racial attitudes, and identity as potential platforms opening up a more “social” neuroscience.
Research limitations/implications – This chapter provides a starting-point for further research incorporating biological mechanisms into sociological theories in the area of morality. The illustrative case study should be replicated in a larger sample and/or in additional studies with different social groups.
Practical implications – This chapter is a useful source of information for sociologists seeking to find out more about the intersection of neuroscience and sociology as well as the neural dynamics of morality.
Originality/value – This chapter presents an introduction to an integrative approach recognizing our biological capacities for a socially constructed morality and the interaction between society and the mind. It includes one of the first sociologically oriented fMRI studies, offering avenues for new ways to bridge research disciplines.
Zygmunt Bauman's work is a case study in the possibilities of postmodernism for sociology. Characterized on the one hand by a gloomy epistemology about knowledge and…
Zygmunt Bauman's work is a case study in the possibilities of postmodernism for sociology. Characterized on the one hand by a gloomy epistemology about knowledge and morality in a postmodern world and on the other, by provocative new concepts to empirically describe a postmodern world, Bauman's work evidences a key tension within postmodern thought. Is it possible to reconcile Bauman's pessimistic epistemology with his optimistic sociology? My argument is that if we recast Bauman as a critical theorist and his method as dialectical immanent critique, we can see how his positive empirical concepts are based on his negative epistemology. In this way we can make sense of the complexity of Bauman's work and appreciate his prophetic abilities. The complexities and possibilities of postmodern thought in general become clearer as well.
Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations… of a thousand different types — religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute … [for] the greatest number of purposes … Nothing in my view deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America,  1945).
In a context of critical transition such as the COVID-19 pandemic, moral semantics take a prominent role as a form of self-description of society. However, they are not…
In a context of critical transition such as the COVID-19 pandemic, moral semantics take a prominent role as a form of self-description of society. However, they are not usually observed, but rather assumed as self-evident and necessarily “good.” The purpose of the article is to summarize the theory of morality from the social systems' perspective and illustrate with concrete examples the polemogenous nature of moral communication.
This article presents an analysis of the role of morality in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, from the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory. Applying the method of second-order observation, it describes three cases of moral semantics disseminated via mass media and social media, and it examines their connection with the structural situation of subsystems of society during the pandemic crisis (particularly healthcare, politics and science).
Second-order observation of moral communication demonstrates to be fruitful to describe the conditions and consequences in which moralization of communication occurs, particularly in a situation of critical transition around the healthcare crisis. The three examples examined, namely, the hero semantics directed to healthcare workers, the semantics of indiscipline and the controversies around pseudo-sciences and conspiracy theories, show how they are based on social attribution of esteem and disesteem, how they try to answer to troublesome situations and contradictions that seem difficult to cope, and how they are close related to the emergence of conflicts, even when they seem positive oriented and well intentioned.
This paper is an attempt to test the usefulness of Luhmann's theory of society to understand the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and particularly the role of moral communication in concrete examples.
The links between moral communication and legal communication have long been studied in sociology of law. Little has yet been said about moral communication invoking when…
The links between moral communication and legal communication have long been studied in sociology of law. Little has yet been said about moral communication invoking when communication in the legal system is impossible, ineffective or uncertain. The paper fills this gap to demonstrate that systems theory-based sociology of law can effectively recognise the role of moral communication in such situations.
The paper presents an empirical study of moral communication in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It focused on situations when SMEs' interactions with function systems, particularly the legal system, result in irremovable legal uncertainty. The data depict strategies of managing such uncertainty and were obtained in a paths-to-justice survey of 7,292 owners and managers of SMEs and 101 in-depth interviews. The findings are interpreted using the author's concept of “uncertainty translation”, rooted in Luhmann's systems theory. It suggests that business organisations such as SMEs deal with the ubiquitous uncertainty in their operations by translating it into a convenient type.
The study distinguishes between formative and absorbing moral communication and finds that both types play a role in steering the uncertainty translation mechanism in SMEs. Six scenarios of invoking moral communication are identified in SMEs dealing with legal uncertainty. In such scenarios, moral communication facilitates the translation of business uncertainty “away from law”. Under some circumstances, this, in turn, leads to latent systematic results, reflexively affecting the legal system, the economic system and the SMEs.
In its core argument, the study is based on qualitative material. While it identifies empirical scenarios of invoking moral communication, it does not report the prevalence of these scenarios due to methodological limitations.
The study results pose questions related to the staple theoretical issue in post-Luhmannian social systems theory: functional differentiation. If moral communication–a type of communication not linked to any social system–can produce far-reaching, systematic results that affect function systems, then the functional differentiation thesis should be less pronounced than Luhmann typically stressed. This said, the paper argues that the contradiction between the findings and Luhmannian theory of morality is only apparent and may be reconciled.
A common charge against qualitative researchers in general and interactionist researchers in particular is that they produce descriptive, a-theoretical accounts of group…
A common charge against qualitative researchers in general and interactionist researchers in particular is that they produce descriptive, a-theoretical accounts of group life. We consider the problem of “analytic interruptus” in contemporary symbolic interactionism – that is, a failure to move beyond analyses of individual cases – and offer a potential to a solution via the pursuit of a generic social process (GSP) research agenda. A GSP approach involves developing, assessing, and revising concepts from the close scrutiny of empirical instances across diverse contexts. By considering criticisms of GSPs from feminist and postmodernist scholars, a more informed, qualified, and better-situated approach to the framework becomes possible. We argue that GSPs remain a quintessential analytical tool to explore subcultural realities and build formal theories of the social world.
This chapter questions the way virtue ethics is being drawn into debates about the ethics of social research. In particular, it suggests that discussion of virtue may be…
This chapter questions the way virtue ethics is being drawn into debates about the ethics of social research. In particular, it suggests that discussion of virtue may be motivated by a desire to counter existing, largely principlist, approaches to the ethics of research and its associated administrative structures; virtue ethics has a prima facie appeal for those who are seemingly in need of an alternative moral philosophy. In addition, I argue that, as it stands, the complexity of virtue theory is not fully reflected in, or acknowledged by, debates about the ethics of social research. In the light of these remarks I suggest that the resources of social research can be drawn upon to generate critical theoretical insights into the ethics of social research. I discuss how a normative understanding of practices, and the concept of synderesis understood in a broadly Bourdieuan framework, could provide a starting point for such critical insights. I conclude that this perspective might be taken to suggest that the ethical stance most appropriate to the culture of social research is one of ongoing critical engagement.