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Moral Culture

Moral Culture

May 1997 | 176 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
If sociology is about society must it not also be about morality? In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the identification between sociology and morality was clear cut; Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Spencer, and Veblen all dealt with moral issues and one might argue that they saw themselves as engaged in a moral vocation. Now, one might argue that the connections between sociology and moral currents have become more tenuous. Moral Culture examines what it means to be moral in contemporary social and cultural life. Author Keith Tester takes the highly original and revealing step of exploring how violence today, and throughout history, affects the relatively safe and secure people who live in the west and who tend to know horror only through television and cinema screens. The book raises questions about the meaning and significance of massacres in the Balkans, Rwanda and, rather more historically, the Holocaust, and the slaughter of Vietnamese peasants by American soldiers in My Lai. It also discusses how Adolf Eichmann and the men of Charlie Company might be different from or similar to us. It answers questions about whether this is a time of moral decay or more seriously, the collapse of moral Civilization. Sociologists often claim that they make a virtue of being relevant and objective, but few have attacked these issues with the urgency and originality that Keith Tester displays in this work. Each chapter provides a historically aware account of a moral problem making it especially relevant reading for students of cultural studies, sociology, political science, and moral philosophy.


`In four provocative chapters - Indifference, Duty, Guilt and Virtue - Tester draws intelligently on the work of George Simmel, Hannah Arendt, Karl Jaspers and Zygmunt Bauman to explore what a morally informed sociology can say about the defining political experiences of our age... Tester's book will provoke discussion and argument. Many will be infuriated by it. Tester has offered a challenge to liveral neutralism - who in sociological theory is prepared to take it up?' Political Studies

`Life is nasty, brutish and short, but sociologists have generally failed to provide an adequate account of human rights and have no satisfactory explanation of how strangers in the modern metropolis might live together in harmony and prosperity. Tester presents a challenge to na[um]ive notions of ethical neutrality and to what we might call caf[ac]e cosmopolitanism and yuppie intellectualism.... Powerful, bold and fascinating' - Professor Bryan S Turner, Deakin University, Australia