My Wellesley

Bradley Campbell, Dignity in an Era of Victimhood and Incivility

October 10, 4:30 pm, Alumnae Hall Ballroom

Dignity culture’s original rival was honor culture, where one’s reputation for bravery was central, and as dignity replaced honor, manners and law began to change. Dignity meant everyone was valuable, regardless of their reputation. This meant people should avoid giving and taking offense, an idea that enabled more peaceful interactions and a more stable and effective legal system. It also meant words were different from violence, and this enabled protections for speech and religion. And it meant that a lot was still wrong with the world, leading to social justice movements seeking to bring dignity to those who had been denied it. But does dignity still matter? In recent years new rivals to dignity culture have emerged, and whether it is in our politics or at our universities, victimhood and incivility often seem to prevail. Dignity is not dead, though, and it can provide an alternative to recent moral trends — one that might lead to greater happiness, civility, and justice.

Bradley Campbell
Bradley Campbell

Bradley Campbell is a professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. He is broadly interested in the study of moral conflict — clashes of right and wrong — and had written mostly about law, violence, and genocide until he began more recently to examine the conflicts on college campuses over microaggressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings, and free speech. He is the author of The Geometry of Genocide: A Study in Pure Sociology and coauthor (along with Jason Manning of West Virginia University) of The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars.