The American Sociologist

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 459–495 | Cite as

Sociology’s Sacred Victims and the Politics of Knowledge: Moral Foundations Theory and Disciplinary Controversies

  • Mark HorowitzEmail author
  • Anthony Haynor
  • Kenneth Kickham


The field of sociology has long been subject to critique for alleged ideological bias and left-wing groupthink linked to its social justice mission. Critics contend that the construction of “sacred victims” by progressive intellectuals hinders their ability to objectively appraise the circumstances of such vulnerable groups. To address this criticism, we survey 479 sociologists in national universities and colleges in the U.S. regarding three sensitive controversies: urban poverty in the black community; gendered differences in occupational choices; and immigration. We find significant patterns in the data. Commitment to the field’s “moral mission,” preferred research paradigm, gender, and especially political orientation are all significant predictors of sociologists’ views. The results, we suggest, can be understood by conceptualizing the field of sociology as an “emotive community.” In doing so, we draw upon current social psychological research on moral foundations theory developed by Jonathan Haidt and colleagues.


Survey of sociologists Sacred victims Intuitionism Moral foundations theory Emotive communities Jonathan Haidt 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Horowitz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anthony Haynor
    • 1
  • Kenneth Kickham
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social WorkSeton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeUSA
  2. 2.Political Science DepartmentUniversity of Central OklahomaEdmondUSA

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