Society and the suppression of vice : the sociology of moral indignation
This study is an exploration of the nature and formation of moral sentiments concerning what constitutes deviance and how deviants should be treated. These sentiments establish the general climate of moral tolerance or intolerance within which reactions to particular instances of deviance take shape. The study is based upon the assumption that differences between people in terms of such moral sentiments reflect further differences in other areas of their lives, in the roles in which they find themselves and the distinctive ideologies to they adhere. The thesis starts from an examination of the work undertaken in this area by Ranulf in developing his theory of moral indignation. This holds that a repressive morality embracing hostility towards hedonism and punitiveness towards deviants is characteristic of the lower middle class as the indirect result of the restraints forced upon its members by their position in the class structure. The present thesis employs the critical appraisal of Ranulf's theory as an opportunity to draw together evidence which serves as a means of elaborating a more comprehensive theory of moral indignation. This evidence is culled from the examination of a number of studies taken from the fields of sociology, social psychology and social anthropology. A study of three "moral crusades" - the Responsible Society, the Nationwide Festival of Light, and the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association – is undertaken to investigate the nature of moral indignation in a contemporary setting. The study concludes by setting forth an explanation of the nature and origin of moral authoritarianism as the product of social constraints.