Moral Relativism and the Concept of Culture

in Theoria
Author: Sonia Sikka
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This paper criticises the concept of culture as deployed within debates on moral relativism, arguing for a greater appreciation of the role of power in the production of a society's purportedly 'moral' norms. The argument is developed in three stages: (1) analysis of the relation between ideology and morality, noting that the concept of morality excludes self-serving moral claims and justifications; (2) analysis of the concept of culture, drawing attention to an ambiguity in its usage and to the hierarchical social structures within which the actual bodies of cultures are produced and reproduced; and (3) contention that (1) and (2) provide the basis for a radical and socially effective species of immanent critique: the exposure of existing norms and institutions purported to be morally justified as masks for the self-interest of elite groups.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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