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The Culture of Morality


  • Page extent: 336 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.5 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521721592)

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$36.99 (P)

The Culture of Morality examines how explanations of social and moral development inform our understandings of morality and culture. A common theme in the latter part of the twentieth century has been to lament the moral state of American society and the decline of morality among youth. A sharp turn toward an extreme form of individualism and a lack of concern for community involvement and civic participation are often blamed for the moral crisis. Elliot Turiel challenges these views, drawing on a large body of research from developmental psychology, as well as from anthropology and sociology. He also culls from social events, political movements, and journalistic accounts of social and political struggles in many places of the world. Turiel shows that generation after generation has lamented the decline of society and blamed young people. Using historical accounts, he persuasively argues that such characterizations of moral decline entail stereotyping, nostalgia for times past, and a failure to recognize the moral viewpoint of those who challenge traditions. He also argues that people's discontents with the unfairness of many aspects of societal arrangements, traditions, and established practices are often misinterpreted as a lack of commitment to society or community. Going beyond American society, Turiel's penetrating analysis uses examples of social events, political movements, and journalistic accounts of social and political struggles worldwide. He shows how marginalized populations often oppose cultural arrangements, and mobilize to change the societal status quo. This unique study is a thoughtful integration of extensive research; an original approach to moral development, social justice, and culture. Elliot Turiel is Chancellor's Professor in the School of Education and Affiliate in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health, and a Van Leer Fellow. He is the President of the Jean Piaget Society. Turiel's previous book is The Development of Social Knowledge (Cambridge, 1983), and he has edited or co-edited Culture, Thought and Development (Erlbaum, 2000), Values and Knowledge (Erlbaum, 1997), and Development and Cultural Change (Jossey-Bass, 1999). Within the field of psychology, Turiel is considered one of the leading researchers of moral and social development. His work has served to provide new directions for a number of now-prominent researchers.


1. Introduction; 2. Striving for community; 3. Discontents revisited; 4. Social judgments and social contexts; 5. The development of moral and social judgments; 6. Social thought and social action; 7. Social harmony and social conflict; 8. Justice, heterogeneity, and cultural practices; 9. Social hierarchy, subordination, and human capabilities; 10. Perspectives on cultural practices: more than one; 11. Subversion in everyday life; 12. Conclusion.


"One can only hope that the scholars who investigate matters of culture difference will bring to their task the same open-minded skepticism and attention to detail, and the same lucidity of exposition, that we are treated to in Turiel's Culture of Morality."
--Human Development

"There is no concept that has been more pivotal to our contemporary discussion of values than 'culture.' Unfortunately, there also has been no concept so poorly understood or so carelessly bandied about. Elliot Turiel has given us a first-rate, in-depth scholarly treatment of culture and morality, a treatment as much needed in academia as in the public domain. In this brilliant and humane book, Turiel offers us a viable way around fruitless oppositions such as those between individualism and collectivism, universalism and contextualism that have confused our vision of moral life in today's world."
--William Damon, Stanford University

"Today, understanding the variety of moral values across generations and cultures is more important than ever. This is what Elliot Turiel helps us do by showing with insightful discussions and fascinating evidence that people around the world are much more reflective and discerning in their moral choices than either conformists or relativists would have us believe. This is an important and timely book."
--Dan Sperber, Institut Jean Nicod (CNRS et EHESS)

"Turiel's exciting book engages important claims about moral development and America's putative moral decline. This is a must-read for anyone interested in these and related topics. The most vexing questions in both areas concern the relations between society/community and the individual. In answer, Turiel avoids sinking his flag at the pole of universal moral development that is culture-blind or at the relativistic, culture-bound pole that ignores deep commonalities in moral development across cultures. Instead, he presents an original view about how the cultural environment is understood by and influences the development of individuals and how individuals influence the culture. And Turiel argues compellingly that there is simply no moral decline in America. He forcefully takes on philosophers and politicians who make such claims. In today's world, post-September 11, 2001, this book takes on extra significance."
--- Sidney Strauss, Tel Aviv University

"Elliot Turiel's very thorough presentation of views on the development of morality at the individual and social level represents scholarship in its highest form. He explains the philosophical, anthropological, and sociological theories of moral development fairly, rejecting each as a compelling explanation in favor of a more ecological approach that recognizes the contribution of the individual to what is perceived as moral. This analysis is of particular value to scholars addressing contemporary concerns that America is experiencing a moral decline and the potent topic of differences in morality between Western and non-Western cultures."
--Edward Zigler, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Psychology, Yale University

"A compelling critique of neo-conservative and communitarian complaints about America's moral decline, and a subtler and more optimistic account of the complexities and tensions of moral judgments and cultural practices that is informed by thoughtful developmental and cross-cultural research. Good books provide food for thought, Turiel's Culture of Morality offers a veritable feast for the intellect."
--Lee Ross, Stanford University

"William Bennett had better beware! The claim that Bennett and other neoconservatives have made so much of--that America is in moral decline--has attracted a relentless new critic. Challenging the key terms in this widely accepted claim, Turiel argues that an authentic morality not only can survive breaks with communal traditions but often demands such ruptures....Those who condemn America for its moral decadence--in Turiel's view--simply fail to realize that societies, just like individuals, mature in their moral perspectives. Sure to provoke spirited rejoinders in the ongoing fight over the nation's cultural health."

"Throughout the book, Turiel contends that different kinds of conflicts are common and that they arise from applying moral judgments in different ways to existing social arrangements... His case studies illustrate the explanatory power of this thesis. Compelling regardless of the reader's perspective, this book is recommended for graduate students, researchers, faculty, and professionals."

"...there could hardly be a more propitious moment for a serious discussion of cluture and is exactly that serious discussion that Elliot Turiel provides in The Culture of Morality."
--Human Development

"The intellectual journey on which Turiel takes the reader is a thoroughly satisfying one, and it will provide students with a valuable introduction to important thinkers whose work is bound to intersect with their own interests."
--Human Development

"Overall, this volume is a strong and substantial addition to the field of moral development...The interdisciplinary nature of the work is applauded both for its implementation and effectiveness. The text will be of interest and use to students and researchers in a variety of fields concerned with how morality exists and evolves."
--Aaron Cooley, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Educational Research Quarterly

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