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moral order

  The outcome of the operation of shared moral assumptions concerning right and wrong in human action. Two broad philosophical approaches to the study of moral order can be identified. One is concerned to formulate principles through which one might judge different actions or values as being moral or immoral. Sack (1997, p. 24) thus emphasizes the inherently geographical nature of moral actions in order to develop a framework through which we might improve ourselves as moral geographical subjects: \'Thinking geographically heightens our moral concerns; it makes clear that moral goals must be set and justified by us in places and as inhabitants of a world.\' Sack\'s work, like that of Tuan (1989), recognizes the complex variations of morality between different times and places, but the aim, in common with the general tenor of humanistic geography, is to seek a normative framework for being human; for being, in Sack\'s (1997) terms, a \'geographical self\' (cf. subject formation, geographies of).

A second broad approach begins from the assumption not only that moral values are relative to specific histories and geographies but also that claims to morality and definitions of moral order are an effect of relations of power. This approach, which informs a number of the studies of moral geographies inspired by the work of Michel Foucault and is associated philosophically with the \'genealogy of morality\' developed by the late nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (Nietzsche, 1994), does not seek a position from which to make moral judgement but aims to problematize the moral in relation to the political, the economic, the cultural, the aesthetic etc. (cf. problematic). By showing the contingency of seemingly universal moral values it becomes possible to trace an historical geography of morality. The implications for the study of moral order of such a rejection of the universal and transhistorical (often associated with the term postmodernism) are explored in the work of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (1995) in relation to issues of morality, ethics and the relations of self and other.

In this second approach the term \'moral order\' can almost appear pejorative, with its suggestion of a regulatory ethical framework produced through specific local power relations. However, for a geographer such as Jackson (1984) \'moral order\' takes on a positive meaning precisely because of its geographical relativity. Jackson\'s account of the work of the early twentieth-century Chicago school of urban sociologists highlights the way in which social geographical inquiry is able to reveal the existence of a moral order in those parts of the city labelled by many outsiders as socially disorganized and therefore immoral. In Jackson\'s work the study of moral order as relative to its location therefore leads not to a criticism of moral order per se, but to a highlighting of other forms of moral order which \'underlie apparent social disorganization\' (p. 178), and which therefore enable a critique of conventional moralistic assumptions concerning life in the modern city. (DM)

References Bauman, Z. 1995: Life in fragments: essays in postmodern morality. Oxford: Blackwell. Jackson, P. 1984: Social disorganization and moral order in the city. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 9: 168-80. Nietzsche, F. 1994 [orig. pub. 1887]: On the genealogy of morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sack, R.D. 1997: Homo geographicus: a framework for action, awareness and moral concern. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Tuan, Y.-F. 1989: Morality and imagination: paradoxes of progress. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.



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