Three essays on moral culture Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Vaisey, Stephen Bradley
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • The goal of this dissertation is to examine empirically the role that morality plays in social life. The first two chapters use data from the National Study of Youth and Religion to investigate the role that different understandings of good and bad, right and wrong, play in shaping the lives of U.S. teenagers. The first chapter advances a new theoretical model for understanding the role that moral cultures play in shaping action. Drawing on sociological practice theories and work in cognitive science, it outlines a dual process theory of culture in action, which holds that most cultural motivation operates at an unconscious level. Consistent with this model, the data analysis shows that individualist moralities tend to foster both more drug use and less civic engagement even though evidence from in-depth suggests that teenagers are largely unable to articulate these moral differences. The second chapter explores how different moral understandings shape social interaction over time. An analyses of ego network data between 2002 and 2005 demonstrates that teenagers with different moral understandings develop friendship networks with different proportions of drug users, those who frequently get in trouble, and regular volunteers. Once again, there is evidence that individualist moralities tend to promote more association with deviant peers and less association with civically engaged peers. The final chapter uses data from Benjamin Zablocki’s Urban Communes Project to explore the relationship between shared moral worldview and community. An analysis of data from 50 urban communes collected in 1974 shows that shared moral order is the best predictor of the degree to which a group’s participants experience it as a true community. Further analyses using fuzzy set methods, however, show that shared moral order must work together with specific structural arrangements in order to ensure the experience of community. Taken together, these studies suggest that morality is a vital dimension of social life that deserves further investigation by sociologists.
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  • In Copyright
  • Smith, Christian
  • Perrin, Andrew J.
  • Open access

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