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Class and morality

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Abstract

Class is argued to be of considerable moral significance, in relation to what people get in terms of resources and opportunities, what they contribute and achieve, who they become, how they value themselves and others, and how they behave towards others. I begin by sketching how we might conceptualise morality and class each in their own right, arguing against the dominant subjectivist and conventionalist treatment of morality in sociology, and recommending a multidimensional, largely Bourdieusian view of class. Then, I address three issues: (i) class itself as an object of moral concern in society, particularly as a form of injustice; (ii) the general relation between class and morality, in terms of the harmony or dissonance between the two, and whether morality legitimises or challenges class, and (iii) the ways in which class affects, and is affected by, moral ideas, feelings and judgements, whether about self and other, practices and ways of living. I conclude by calling for further research which transcends the divide between sociological and normative or evaluative treatments of class and morality.