Advanced

Vårt eget fel : moralisk kausalitet som tankefigur från 00-talets klimatlarm till förmoderna syndastraffsföreställningar

Larsson Heidenblad, David LU (2012)
Abstract
The starting point of this study is the striking similarities between late modern notions of anthropogenic climate change and premodern ideas about divine punishment. In both these cases the occurrence of future disasters have been directly linked to the moral behavior of the endangered. What threatens to befall man is considered to be his own fault. Hence urgent calls have been made for each and everyone to alter their way of living to avoid future calamities by the means of, respectively, changing their sinful ways and decreasing their carbon emissions.

The similarities between the near present and the distant past begs the question if history is repeating itself. Have man throughout the ages continuously envisaged connections... (More)
The starting point of this study is the striking similarities between late modern notions of anthropogenic climate change and premodern ideas about divine punishment. In both these cases the occurrence of future disasters have been directly linked to the moral behavior of the endangered. What threatens to befall man is considered to be his own fault. Hence urgent calls have been made for each and everyone to alter their way of living to avoid future calamities by the means of, respectively, changing their sinful ways and decreasing their carbon emissions.

The similarities between the near present and the distant past begs the question if history is repeating itself. Have man throughout the ages continuously envisaged connections between collective moral behavior and looming disasters? Can these ideas be seen as a deeply entrenched cultural pattern in the Judeo-Christian world? Is the threat of climate change a late modern variation on an ancient mythological understanding of man’s relation to his surroundings?

In order to investigate these questions in the present disseration five case studies are carried out in a swedish context stretching from the autumn of 2006, when the topic of climate change had its major breakthrough in the public sphere of Sweden, back to the early 17th century, when ideas about divine punishment held a dominant cultural position through the teachings of the lutheran state church. The three other case studies deals with the changing religious messages of the early 19th century, the public interpretations of the outbreak of the First World War, and the depiction of the threat of nuclear war in relation to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The source material consists of different forms of mass communicated messages, ranging from sermons and psalms to newspapers and tv-documentaries.

The study shows that the thought-figure of moral causality have not been a constant cultural feature throughout the centuries. It was ubiquitous in pre-modern times and is discernible in late modernity, but between these two periods other thought-figures gradually became more prominent. In sum, the far-reaching historical trend is that notions of collective guilt have become rare and consequently that notions of collective innocence have become more common. This could be described as a cultural victimization process of ideas concerning causality and responsibility. By the middle of the 20th century what threatened to befall man was most commonly depicted as someone else’s fault – not our own.

But in the latter part of the 20th century notions of collective guilt made a cultural comeback due to the rise of modern environmentalism. The green ideas’ entrance into mainstream culture and politics marked a shift away from the long ranging trend of a cultural vicitimization of the many. The study thus shows that we might be in the middle of a cultural moral reorientation process were the modern concepts of victims and perpetrators might be losing ground to notions of collective guilt. This new cluster of ideas is not identical with premodern ideas about sin and punishment, but share certain key characteristics.

In conclusion, the study demonstrates the benefits of a large timescale since it can enhance our understanding of the past as well as of the present. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Kaiserfeld, Thomas, Lunds universitet
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
moral causality, climate change, divine punishment, notions of collective threat, notions of collective responsibility, outbreak of the First World War, the threat of nuclear war, the Cuban missile crisis, cultural history, thought-figures, mass communication, longue durée, Sweden, secularization, victimization
pages
286 pages
publisher
Agerings bokförlag
defense location
Sal 3, historiska institutionen, Magle stora kyrkogata 12, Lund
defense date
2013-01-18 10:15
ISBN
978-91-86119-16-4
language
Swedish
LU publication?
yes
id
8217a8a2-a3d1-4e6c-b20a-d940b1957861 (old id 3327253)
date added to LUP
2012-12-21 11:14:04
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:04
@phdthesis{8217a8a2-a3d1-4e6c-b20a-d940b1957861,
  abstract     = {The starting point of this study is the striking similarities between late modern notions of anthropogenic climate change and premodern ideas about divine punishment. In both these cases the occurrence of future disasters have been directly linked to the moral behavior of the endangered. What threatens to befall man is considered to be his own fault. Hence urgent calls have been made for each and everyone to alter their way of living to avoid future calamities by the means of, respectively, changing their sinful ways and decreasing their carbon emissions.<br/><br>
 The similarities between the near present and the distant past begs the question if history is repeating itself. Have man throughout the ages continuously envisaged connections between collective moral behavior and looming disasters? Can these ideas be seen as a deeply entrenched cultural pattern in the Judeo-Christian world? Is the threat of climate change a late modern variation on an ancient mythological understanding of man’s relation to his surroundings?<br/><br>
 In order to investigate these questions in the present disseration five case studies are carried out in a swedish context stretching from the autumn of 2006, when the topic of climate change had its major breakthrough in the public sphere of Sweden, back to the early 17th century, when ideas about divine punishment held a dominant cultural position through the teachings of the lutheran state church. The three other case studies deals with the changing religious messages of the early 19th century, the public interpretations of the outbreak of the First World War, and the depiction of the threat of nuclear war in relation to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The source material consists of different forms of mass communicated messages, ranging from sermons and psalms to newspapers and tv-documentaries. <br/><br>
 The study shows that the thought-figure of moral causality have not been a constant cultural feature throughout the centuries. It was ubiquitous in pre-modern times and is discernible in late modernity, but between these two periods other thought-figures gradually became more prominent. In sum, the far-reaching historical trend is that notions of collective guilt have become rare and consequently that notions of collective innocence have become more common. This could be described as a cultural victimization process of ideas concerning causality and responsibility. By the middle of the 20th century what threatened to befall man was most commonly depicted as someone else’s fault – not our own. <br/><br>
 But in the latter part of the 20th century notions of collective guilt made a cultural comeback due to the rise of modern environmentalism. The green ideas’ entrance into mainstream culture and politics marked a shift away from the long ranging trend of a cultural vicitimization of the many. The study thus shows that we might be in the middle of a cultural moral reorientation process were the modern concepts of victims and perpetrators might be losing ground to notions of collective guilt. This new cluster of ideas is not identical with premodern ideas about sin and punishment, but share certain key characteristics. <br/><br>
 In conclusion, the study demonstrates the benefits of a large timescale since it can enhance our understanding of the past as well as of the present.},
  author       = {Larsson Heidenblad, David},
  isbn         = {978-91-86119-16-4},
  keyword      = {moral causality,climate change,divine punishment,notions of collective threat,notions of collective responsibility,outbreak of the First World War,the threat of nuclear war,the Cuban missile crisis,cultural history,thought-figures,mass communication,longue durée,Sweden,secularization,victimization},
  language     = {swe},
  pages        = {286},
  publisher    = {Agerings bokförlag},
  school       = {Lund University},
  title        = {Vårt eget fel : moralisk kausalitet som tankefigur från 00-talets klimatlarm till förmoderna syndastraffsföreställningar},
  year         = {2012},
}