, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 181–192 | Cite as

Moral Courage: A Sociological Perspective

  • Eyal Press
Culture and Society


While many social scientists have written about obedience and conformity, few have analyzed the conduct of outliers and nonconformists who defy these forces by engaging in acts of moral courage. Among psychologists and philosophers, moral courage is often portrayed as an individualistic phenomenon that is immune to sociological analysis. This paper challenges this view, positing that social ties with like-minded coconspirators, an identification with ‘imagined others’ who espouse similar moral beliefs, and social interactions that awaken the conscience play a crucial role in facilitating these seemingly solitary acts. Drawing on two original case studies – a border guard who defied a restrictive immigration law on the eve of World War II, and a Serb who crossed the lines of ethnic division during the Balkan wars of the 1990s – the article illuminates the social dimensions of moral courage and contributes to the project of developing a social psychology of conscience.


Moral courage Behavior Disobedience Nonconformity Ethics Character 

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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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