Morality, Modernity, and World Society

  • Sabine Frerichs
  • Richard Münch
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


The sociology of morality spans a wide range of approaches that either focus on collective entities (macro level), individual actors (micro level), or even brain activity (neuro level). In this chapter, we argue for a multi-level approach that encompasses moral collectives, individuals, and brains but also goes beyond: Notably, we suggest to add a meta-analytical level that explicitly deals with moral discourses – including the present one. Scientific discourses about morality are a meaningful form of self-reflection in modern society. Under the conditions of globalization, scientific rationalities seem to gain importance whereas national collectivities apparently lose moral relevance. Our main argument goes as follows: In a functionally differentiated and highly rationalized world society, morality is constructed differently in the various social spheres and their respective theories of reflection. For example, law, economy, and science rely on different moral values, visions and views of man. However, all three spheres contribute to the “global cult of the individual”: an emphasis on individual rights and interests, brains and bodies. Hence, whereas the different moral discourses are, by no means, congruent with each other, they still converge in their presumptions and prescriptions of “rational actorhood” which seems to define the human condition in the global age.


Modern Society Moral Authority Moral Discourse Social Sphere Global Integration 
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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabine Frerichs
    • 1
  • Richard Münch
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre of Excellence, Foundations of European Law and PolityUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.University of BambergBambergGermany

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