Moral Dissection:

The theory put forth by the authors, which is based on ideas from the anthropologist Richard Shweder, is the best breakdown of the moral categories, outlines six clusters of moral concerns:







upon which, we argue, all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals.



The Moral Foundations of Occupy Wall Street:   Link

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, which I developed with psychologists at the University of California at Irvine (Pete Ditto), the University of Chicago (Craig Joseph), and the University of Southern California (Jesse Graham, Ravi Iyer, and Sena Koleva).
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.
The moral foundation of liberty was barely evident at OWS in the use of positive terms such as liberty or freedom, even though protesters took to calling Zuccotti Park by its previous name, Liberty Square. Occupy Wall Street is not a rally to “get government off our backs.” It’s a rally to get government to increase regulation of Wall Street and big business. The only sign of direct appeals to liberty that I saw during my visit was the ironic use of a favored Tea Party slogan to protect and care for vulnerable flowers as seen in photo 9.
Instead, there was a strong emphasis at OWS on the evils of the opposite of liberty, namely oppression. There was a pervasive sense (or hope) that the downtrodden masses (“the 99 percent”) were beginning to unite to throw off the yoke of their oppressors (“the 1 percent”) (see photo 10).
This is a process that the anthropologist Chris Boehm has observed in egalitarian societies. When one man tries to act like a leader or overlord, the other men unite into a “reverse dominance hierarchy” to take him down, as illustrated by this protester’s sweatshirt showing the unified “99 percent” about to crush the “1 percent” (see photo 11).
The moral foundations of OWS are consistent with the moral foundations of the left more generally: fairness, care, and concerns about oppression. The difference is that fairness is moved up from the second position where we normally find it (below care) to become the No. 1 motivation. This makes sense given that the protests are a response to the perceived cheating, law-breaking, and greed of the major financial firms.
Many pundits have commented on the fact that OWS has no specific list of demands, but the protesters’ basic message is quite clear: rein in the influence of big business, which has cheated and manipulated its way to great wealth (in part by buying legislation) while leaving a trail of oppressed and impoverished victims in its wake.
Will this message catch on with the rest of the country, much of which also values the loyalty, authority, and sanctity foundations? If OWS protesters engage in acts of violence, flag desecration, destruction of private property, or anything else that makes them seem subversive or anti-American, then I think most Americans will quickly reject them.


Furthermore, if the protesters continue to focus on the gross inequality of outcomes in America, they will get nowhere. There is no equality foundation. Fairness means proportionality, and if Americans generally think that the rich got rich by working harder or by providing goods and services that were valued in a free market, they won’t support redistributionist policies.


But if the OWS protesters can better articulate their case that “the 1 percent” got its riches by cheating, rather than by providing something valuable, or that “the 1 percent” abuses its power and oppresses “the 99 percent,” then Occupy Wall Street will find itself standing on a very secure pair of moral foundations.


OWS is trying to sell the notion that the 1% got theirs by cheating.