In the last few years we’ve seen an interesting phenomenon, especially on college campuses, where people will take verbal slights or even just social faux pas as signs of emotional or psychological violence. These perceived slights are called “microaggressions,” and at a few college campuses, students collect and broadcast the names of individuals who have committed them. The response from the public or the student body is sometimes muted, but sometimes online mobs have been unleashed upon the microaggressors.
Why does it seem people have gotten more sensitive to verbal slights? What happened to “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?”
Two sociologists have gotten together — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — and published a paper theorizing that what we’re seeing is the rise of a new moral ethos they call “victimhood culture.” Today on the podcast, we discuss insights from their paper about how society has transitioned through 3 stages — from an honor culture to a dignity culture, and now to a new victimhood culture.
- The characteristics of a moral culture of honor
- How cultures that make their livelihood herding animals promote a culture of honor
- The characteristics of a moral culture of dignity
- How a victimhood culture is a weird combination of both honor and dignity cultures
- Why we’re seeing the rise of victimhood
- What the heck is a microaggression and safe space?
- Why Achilles and Beowulf would have a terrible time in modern American colleges
- The implications of victimhood culture in academics and democracy
- And much more!
You can read Campbell’s and Manning’s paper for free here. Great summary of the sociology of honor, as well as a big picture view of changing moral cultures in the West.