On the Social Construction of Moral Universals

Jeffrey C. Alexander

in The Meanings of Social Life

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195160840
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199944156 | DOI:
On the Social Construction of Moral Universals

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This chapter explores the social creation of a cultural fact and evaluates the effects of this cultural fact on social and moral life. It analyses the creation of moral universals, focusing on the Holocaust and the associated war crime and trauma. It attempts to explain how a historical event, an event marked by ethnic and racial hatred, violence, and war, became transformed into a generalized symbol of human suffering and moral evil and a universalized symbol whose very existence has created historically unprecedented opportunities for ethnic, racial, and religious justice, for mutual recognition, and for global conflicts to become regulated in a more civil way.

Keywords: cultural fact; social creation; social life; moral life; moral universals; Holocaust; war crime; trauma; racial hatred; moral evil

Chapter.  27565 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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