Creating global moral iconicity: The Nobel Prizes and the constitution of world moral culture

European Journal of Social Theory 21 (3):304-321 (2018)
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Abstract

Since at least the late nineteenth century, a world-level moral culture has developed, providing a space for certain persons to be presented as global moral icons. This global moral space was already pointed to by Kant as an emergent form, and was later theorized by Durkheim. This article shows that an important institutionalization of global moral culture involved the founding of the Nobel Prizes, the subsequent mutations of which were also important in the constitution of that culture. These, and other awards which imitated them, are performative in a profound sense: they simultaneously reflect and help bring into being a planet-spanning culture which demands moral icons which both exemplify and partly constitute it. How the Nobel Prizes and their imitators work to create moral iconicity that is globally relevant is explored. The case of Gandhi is taken as an example of how, despite not being awarded a Nobel Prize, some moral icons are also brought into being through symbolic contact with other such icons, including Nobel Prize winners. The article considers the lingering, powerful, but generally invisible, influence today on world moral culture of the innovations pursued by the early Nobel Prize committees.

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References found in this work

Professional Ethics and Civic Morals.Emile Durkheim - 1957 - New York, NY: Routledge.
Art as a Social System.Niklas Luhmann - 2000 - Stanford University Press.
The Sociology of Vocational Prizes.Nathalie Heinich - 2009 - Theory, Culture and Society 26 (5):85-107.

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