The article presents one of the main findings from a recent study of the culture of the highly educated middle class in Norway; namely, the significance of morality in their discourse and the composition of this value universe, and suggests elements of cultural-historical continuity to explain the pattern observed. Such a result diverges in certain ways from the conventional wisdom of social theory. In the article, we argue for the existence of a Nordic case of middle class culture, by examining our evidence in the light of some central contributions to Western, comparative social history and cultural sociology. Our point of departure is the project on the European Bürgertum led by German historians, and the study by Michèle Lamont comparing the upper middle classes in France and the United States. In a methodological argument, we suggest that the question of what constitutes classes historically in existing social formations needs to be revisited in terms of cultural processes as well as forms of societal interaction. The content of Norwegian middle-class morality emerges as different cultural repertoires that can be represented by two ideal, moral types: “The Good Samaritan” and “the socially responsible citizen.” In the last part of the article, we discuss a set of hypotheses to explain such findings in terms of moral repertoires historically embedded in Norwegian culture, and suggest the existence of a specific regime of moral action.


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pp. 313-340
Launched on MUSE
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