So while dignity spread upwards from the middle classes to the social elite, Campbell and Manning warn, victimhood culture will likely spread downwards from the social elites to the middle classes—as those wishing to be upwardly mobile will try to emulate upper-class moral norms. While the culture is likely to spread downwards, it is also likely to inspire resentment.
Campbell and Manning warn that the narratives of privilege deployed by the culture, which target white men in particular, are just as likely to inspire hostility as deference, especially in those who feel that they are unfairly targeted as oppressors:. If whites and males increasingly face a moral world divided between those who vilify them and those who glorify them, we should not be surprised if many find the latter more appealing than the former. Victimhood culture deviates from this moral equality by producing a moral hierarchy with white males at the bottom; the reaction it provokes may be the resurgence of a moral hierarchy that places them at the top.
Paradoxically, the backlash against political correctness is likely to make the situation worse. Conservatives are quickly learning to ape victimhood, too. You can side with the left and hope to be allowed to exist like a domesticates [sic] lap dog like David Brooks or Bret Stephens…. The logic of victimhood culture, then, is escalating grievance and retaliatory aggression.
When slights cannot be neutralized with a dignified turn of the cheek, the prognosis looks grim. What the purveyors of victimhood culture do not seem to grasp is that in weakening dignity, and in undermining the principles that deem all men and women to be moral equals, they unwittingly destroy the safeguards that prevent bad actors—such as hoaxers and narcissists—from climbing the social hierarchy through dishonesty and manipulation.
In incentivizing weakness and reliance on third parties to intervene in disputes, students invite a paternalistic authoritarian apparatus to develop. While they seem comfortable with an authoritarian apparatus on their university campus today, we should not be surprised if they demand an authoritarian state to police the citizenry tomorrow. The logical endpoint of a victimhood culture will not be a progressive utopia.
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On the contrary: The further this culture radiates outward, the more likely it will make victims of us all. The two sociologists have aimed to supply us with an empirical sociological analysis of the recent moral conflicts that have erupted on U. After reading the book, I reached out to the American sociologists to interview them about some of the key themes of their book, and also to gain insight into some recent cultural trends that were not covered.
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What follows is a transcript of our interview conducted via email. In dignity cultures, there is a low sensitivity to slight.
People are more tolerant of insult and disagreement. Taking the law into your own hands with violent vengeance is itself a serious crime and generally looked down upon. Insults demand a serious response, and even accidental slights might provoke severe conflict. Having a low tolerance for offense is more likely to be seen as a virtue than a vice.
Letting yourself be slighted without seeking justice is shameful. And seeking justice is more likely to take the form of violent vengeance. Appealing to authorities is more stigmatized than taking matters into your own hands. These two kinds of cultures emphasize different sources of moral status or worth.
It depends on reputation. And while a lot of things might go into making this reputation, the core of classical honor is physical bravery. Tolerating slights is shameful because you let someone put you down without defending your reputation by force. It suggests cowardice. Appealing to the authorities is shameful for the same reason.
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Virtue means being bold and forceful, aggressively defending your reputation against any challenges, and being vigilant for signs that someone else is probing you for weakness. Dignity is a kind of inherent and inalienable moral worth. What we call victimhood culture combines some aspects of honor and dignity. People in a victimhood culture are like the honorable in having a high sensitivity to slight. Insults are serious business, and even unintentional slights might provoke a severe conflict. But, as in a dignity culture, people generally eschew violent vengeance in favor of relying on some authority figure or other third party.
They complain to the law, to the human resources department at their corporation, to the administration at their university, or — possibly as a strategy of getting attention from one of the former — to the public at large. The combination of high sensitivity with dependence on others encourages people to emphasize or exaggerate the severity of offenses. People who air grievances are likely to appeal to such concepts as disadvantage, marginality, or trauma, while casting the conflict as a matter of oppression.
The result is that this culture also emphasizes a particular source of moral worth: victimhood. Victim identities are deserving of special care and deference. Contrariwise, the privileged are morally suspect if not deserving of outright contempt. Privilege is to victimhood as cowardice is to honor.
We can see examples of honor cultures around the world and throughout history. They tend to have relatively high rates of violence, including such distinctive forms as dueling and feuding. Much of the premodern West can be understood as an honor culture. European elites used to preserve their honor by fighting duels to the death; in the US South, fatal duels continued up until the American Civil War. By the 20 th century, though, dignity culture had largely supplanted honor culture in the West.
Writing in , sociologist Peter Berger called the concept of honor obsolete, saying it had little resonance with modern people. People no longer lived in mortal fear of having their honor damaged. And duels to the death were a strange curiosity of the past. We argue that victimhood culture, at least in its more extreme forms, is new. We see it in its purest form on contemporary college and university campuses.
Manifestations of victimhood culture include complaining about and punishing microaggressions, demanding and creating safe spaces, requesting and requiring trigger warnings, and banning or disinviting speakers who might offend designated victim groups. Other kinds of status have other sources, so in any complex society not only are some people more respectable than others, but some are also wealthier, more socially integrated, or more culturally conventional.
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Your position on these and other social hierarchies affects how people treat you. If you testify in court, for example, people are more likely to believe you if you are wealthy, respectable, and so on. So respectability — moral status — acts like other kinds of status. And since moral judgments give rise to it, it takes different forms depending on the moral culture.
One culture might see obedience and self-control as key virtues, while another might see them as vices if they mean less individuality and authenticity. This is what happens in an honor culture. Courage, and one aspect of it in particular — physical bravery — is elevated over other virtues.www.bgb-stbg.de/wp-includes/3163-handy-kontrolle.php
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It also leads to a moral hierarchy with brave, strong, and violent men at the top and the cowardly and the weak at the bottom. Honor is one type of moral status, one revolving around a particular virtue. It arises under particular social conditions such as the absence of a government monopoly on violence, so we certainly understand why honor cultures exist and the logic of their moral system. But we agree with the critics of honor cultures throughout history who have objected to the conflict and violence those cultures produce.
We also object to the moral hierarchy of those cultures. Emphasizing one virtue over many others leads to perversities: Cruel men and hotheads can end up being esteemed while peacemakers are denigrated. The moral hierarchy of victimhood culture has some of the same problems, and it introduces others. Like honor cultures, victimhood cultures emphasize one set of vices and virtues over others.
They are concerned with eradicating oppression and privilege, and this single-minded moral obsession can lead to the similar kinds of perversities that come from neglecting other virtues in honor cultures. Honor cultures incentivize bravery while neglecting other virtues. But if you want esteem in a victimhood culture, what can you do? Victimhood culture incentivizes bad behavior. The idea is that all members of certain groups are victims, but that no one else is.
Activists even argue that whites cannot be the victims of racism, or men the victims of sexism.
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Likewise, whether people can be victims of new offenses like cultural appropriation or microaggression, depends on their identity. A white person wearing a hairstyle associated with African Americans would be cultural appropriation, for instance, but an African American wearing a hairstyle associated with whites would not be. Likewise, those who have pioneered the concept of microaggression have made it clear that not all slights count.
Under this schema even many minority groups, such as Evangelical Christians, fail to qualify, and any discrimination against them is ignored or celebrated.
We have two problems with this. The first is a fundamental moral objection. We believe in the ideals of dignity culture — that all human beings have an inherent worth and should be treated accordingly — and we object to the new hierarchy of victimhood just as we would any racial and ethnic hierarchy. The second problem is the reactions it may produce. We find the recent prominence of alt-right white nationalists alarming, and we worry there will be more of it in reaction to the spread of victimhood culture. CL: You wrote your book before the explosion of the MeToo movement.