Social Organizations and Moral Regulation Projects: Governing Morals by Alan Hunt

Social Organizations and Moral Regulation Projects: Governing Morals by Alan Hunt

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Moral regulation has been – and still is – a very heated topic for discussion. In chapters two and three of his book, Governing Morals: A Social History of Moral Regulation, author Alan Hunt speaks of various social organizations and their different attempts at moral regulation projects from the late 18th to early 20th century. Although the two chapters flow into each other, and time turns from one century to the next, various and complex societal changes, and in turn, approaches to moral regulation are noted. Said changes to society and regulatory approaches include evolving civil associations, the incorporation of character and females into the social sphere, and shifts away from the church. As society changes, so does the approach to, and implication of, moral regulation projects.
Expanding on the notion of moral regulation evolution, Hunt makes note of shifts in civil associations and their approaches to regulating morals between the 18th and 19th centuries. Hunt speaks of the Societies for the Reformation of Matters, its successor – the Vice Society, in chapter two, and the Female Moral Reform Society and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in chapter three. In brief, moral regulation projects shifted from simply enforcing the laws in place at the time, to working alongside the state, to going back to civil matters but this time adding women into the social sphere, and rescuing and aiding immoral actors instead of punishing them. The Societies for Reformation of Matters existed to enforce laws which were in place, while its successor had more on its agenda. Comparing the two organizations shows that although they shared similar fundamental visions and motives at first, the Vice Society evolved into something much larger a...

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...ople. The Proclamation also demanded Justices of Peace to enforce laws on drinking, blasphemy, lewdness, and swearing. Conversely, the Vice Society’s suppression fell at the feet of the FMRS which favoured running “rescue” homes for reformed prostitutes. The role of the middle class, and more importantly women, also helped form moral regulatory practices. Nonetheless, the biggest shift in regulation of social morals involved morality breaking away from the religious realm. That event opened a lot of doors, both in terms of moral regulation and society. One thing which should be recognized is that if society was a stale concept, advancements in moral regulation would not have happened, and vice versa. The two concepts feed off of each other. In order to understand one, we must understand the other.

Works Cited

Governing Morals: A Social History of Moral Regulation

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