Moral Power

  • Jal Mehta
  • Christopher Winship
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Morality and power are often taken to be opposites, with morality grounded in altruism and a commitment of the common good, and power located in self-interest. Our contention is that moral power, seemingly an oxymoron, is actually a widely present and important factor in social and political life. Moral power is the degree to which an actor, by virtue of his or her perceived moral stature, is able to persuade others to adopt a particular belief or take a particular course of action. We argue that moral power is a function of whether one is perceived as morally well-intentioned, morally capable, and whether one has moral standing to speak to an issue. In this chapter, we introduce the concept of moral power, situate it theoretically, offer a theory of how it is generated, and give a range of examples to illustrate its relevance.


Moral Status Youth Violence Moral Claim Moral Standing Soft Power 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Gabriel Abend, Wayne Baker, Nicola Beisel, Neil Gross, Steven Hitlin, Jennifer Hochschild, Steven Lukes, Jane Mansbridge, Brian Steensland, attendees of the Inquiries in the Sociology of Morality session at the International Institute of Sociology World Congress in Budapest. And also the participants at the Harvard Culture and Social Analysis workshop and the National Science Foundation Conference on the Sociology of Morality for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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