The Moral Foundations of Occupy Wall Street
By Jonathan Haidt, Reason Magazine
From a rational perspective, joining a protest rally is like voting—a complete waste of time. The odds that your voice or your protest sign will make a difference are no better than the odds that your vote will change an election. And yet, people do join protests and people do vote. They do these things not to advance their rational self-interest, but to express moral passions and moral identities.
In Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, home base of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a noisy, festive crowd of hundreds was doing just that when I stopped by on October 8. In an attempt to make sense of the goals and motivations of the protesters there, I brought along a small camera, and Moral Foundations Theory—a theory I developed with Jesse Graham, Ravi Iyer, and Sena Koleva (all at the University of Southern California), Pete Ditto (University of California at Irvine), and Craig Joseph (who was then at the University of Chicago).
This theory, which is based on ideas from the anthropologist Richard Shweder, outlines six clusters of moral concerns—care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation—upon which, we argue, all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals.
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