Agnes Heller Annual Lecture 2015

Nick_HookwayBeyond Moral Decline: New Moralities for New Times?

Dr Nicholas Hookway (Sociology, School of Social Sciences, The University of Tasmania)







5pm to 6.30pm

Martin Building Lecture Theatre 141, La Trobe University, Melbourne

(all welcome)

We’re in a state of moral decline in the West – or so we’re told. From the shrinking of life-long commitments to an excessive concern with self and consumerism, morality has been diagnosed and it’s terminal. Narratives of moral decline are influential in current popular and intellectual Western debate but also run deep in a sociological tradition of moral crisis or loss. In this lecture I trace how a ‘decline’ genre of sociology has taken shape in two dominant camps: the ‘cultural pessimists’ and the ‘communitarians’. I argue that these diagnoses of the moral present are overly pessimistic and ignore the capacity of emotions, body and cultures of authenticity to provide powerful everyday moral frameworks. Drawing upon both theoretical and empirical critiques of moral decline, including recent national survey data on kindness in Australia, I offer a hopeful story that helps push sociology beyond models of narcissism and community breakdown.

NICHOLAS HOOKWAY is lecturer in sociology within the School of Social Sciences at the University of Tasmania. Nick has published work in Sociology and British Journal of Sociology (in press) and is co-convenor of The Australian Sociological Association Cultural Sociology thematic group. He and his partner are expecting their second child in November. Nicholas makes regular contributions to the media and has an unhealthy obsession with the Hawthorn Football Club and Roger Federer.


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