The Moral Order of Modern Societies, Moral Communication and Indirect Moralizing

  • Thomas Luckmann


It may be useful to begin with a brief clarification of the main terms I use in my observations on morality in modern societies. I view morality as a reasonably coherent set of notions of what is right and what is wrong — beyond the pulls and pushes of any momentary situation and above the immediate gratification of desires. The notions, held by individuals, are not of subjective origin; they are intersubjectively constructed, socially selected, maintained and transmitted. Thus they form historical traditions of distinct conceptions of the good life. „Reasonably coherent“ does not imply that they are necessarily integrated into a tight system. The degree to which the moral view of life is dogmatically articulated depends upon the presence of moral entrepreneur experts in the society; it also depends on the kind of experts involved in systematization: prophets, theologians, philosophers, educationists etc.


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  1. 2.
    For an elaboration cf. my contribution to the Festschrift for Maurice Natanson, On the Intersubjective Constitution of Morals, in. S. Gait Crowell (ed.) The Prism of the Self. Dordrecht — Boston — London, 1995, pp. 73–91Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    A recent and powerful argument for this view is presented by Frans de Waal, Good natured. The origins of right and wrong in humans and other animals. Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Mass., London 1996)Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Cf. Alfred Schütz and Thomas Luckmann, The Structures of the Life-World I, Evanston, III, 1973 (London etc. 1974), p. 59ff.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Robert RedfieldGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    Emile Durkheim, De la division du travail social, Paris, 1893 and Le suicide, Paris, 1960Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Theodor Geiger, Vorstudien zu einer Soziologie des Rechts, Kopenhagen, 1947Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Which were sponsored by the German Science Foundation. A related study of moral communication in intermediary institutions is being supported by the Bertelsmann Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1997

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  • Thomas Luckmann

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