Creating Global Moral Iconicity: The Nobel Prizes and the Constitution of World Moral Culture
European Journal of Social Theory
(c) The Author(s) 2017
Since at least the late 19th century, a world-level moral culture has developed, providing a space for certain persons to be presented as global moral icons. This global moral space was already pointed to by Kant as an emergent form, and was later theorized by Durkheim. This paper shows how an important institutionalisation of global moral culture was enacted by the founding, and subsequent mutations of, the Nobel Prizes. These, and other awards which imitated them, are performative in a profound sense: they simultaneously reflect and help bring into being a planet-spanning culture which demands moral icons which both exemplify and partly constitute it. How the Nobel prizes and their imitators work to create globally-relevant moral iconicity is explored. The case of Gandhi is taken as an example of how, despite not being awarded a Nobel prize, some moral icons are also brought into being through symbolic contact with other such icons, including Nobel winners. The paper considers the lingering, powerful, but generally invisible, influence today on world moral culture of the innovations pursued by the early Nobel prize committees.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from SAGE Publications via the DOI in this record.
First Published April 21, 2017