University of Tasmania
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For the love of money moral orientations toward money in the 'good life'

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posted on 2023-05-26, 04:02 authored by Julia VerdouwJulia Verdouw
Is money 'good'? The pursuit of personal wealth as a primary life 'good' lies at the heart of Australian society and culture. Yet in western culture, the traditional legacies of money understandings endure: as a value-neutral tool of the economy, free from moral considerations. This thesis provides a sociological analysis about how people are morally oriented towards money. The thesis addresses money meanings from an interpretative framework, in the context of in-depth interviews with forty-one young Tasmanian adults about what they understand is a 'good life'. A sociological analysis of orientations towards what is 'good' in life provides a framework for thinking about morality along similar lines to Emile Durkheim, or later, Charles Taylor, as related to common, social and individual dispositions towards the 'good'. Drawn from three different income contexts - middle-income earners, low-income earners and downshifters (those who have voluntary shifted to a lower-income) - this thesis explores contrasting money narratives that highlight alternative money meanings amongst participants. In particular, the dominant money narrative points to a shared and culturally preferred way of understanding money: as good and worthwhile pursuing for a 'good life'. Meanings that underlie this narrative are shown to have consequences for the motivations, identities, actions and future directions of all participants in the study. These narratives are analysed drawing on a number of theoretical discussions both within the sociology of money and sociology of morality, including whether moral orientations towards money found in this culture are in fact 'good'. For example, can such forms of social morality be 'moralitysilencing' (Bauman 1989: 174) rather than something that generates individual moral responsibility?


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