Moral entrepreneur

A moral entrepreneur is an individual, group or formal organization that seeks to influence a group to adopt or maintain a norm. Moral entrepreneurs are those who take the lead in labeling a particular behaviour and spreading or popularizing this label throughout society. This can include attributing negative labels to behaviour as well as the removal of negative labels, positively labeling, or removing positive labels. The moral entrepreneur may press for the creation or enforcement of a norm for any number of reasons, altruistic or selfish. Such individuals or groups also hold the power to generate moral panic; similarly multiple moral entrepreneurs may have conflicting goals and work to counteract each other. Some examples of moral entrepreneurs are: MADD (mothers against drunk driving), the anti-tobacco lobby, the gun control lobby, anti-pornography groups, LGBT social movements, and the pro-life and pro-choice movements (an example of two moral entrepreneurs working against each other on a single issue).

Rule creator and rule enforcer

The term "moral entrepreneur" was coined by Howard S. Becker. In his view, moral entrepreneurs fall into roughly two categories: rule creators, and rule enforcers.

Rule creators generally express the conviction that some kind of threatening social evil exists that must be combated. They can be seen as moral crusaders, who are concerned chiefly with the successful persuasion of others, but are not concerned with the means by which this persuasion is achieved. Successful moral crusades are generally dominated by those in the upper social strata of society (Becker, 1963). They often include religious groups, lawmaking bodies, and stakeholders in a given field. There is political competition in which these moral crusaders originate crusades aimed at generating reform, based on what they think is moral, therefore defining deviance. Moral crusaders must have power, public support, generate public awareness of the issue, and be able to propose a clear and acceptable solution to the problem (Becker, 1963). The degree of a moral entrepreneur's power is highly dependent upon the social and cultural context (Reinarman, 1994). Social position determines one's ability to define and construct reality; therefore, the higher one's social position, the greater his or her moral value.

After a time, crusaders become dependent upon experts or professionals, who serve to legitimize a moral creed on technical or scientific grounds. Rule enforcers, such as policemen, are compelled by two drives: the need to justify their own role, and the need to win respect in interactions. They are in a bind; if they show too much effectiveness one might say they are not needed, and if they show too little effectiveness one might say they are failing. Rule enforcers just feel the need to enforce the rule because that is their job; they are not really concerned with the content of the rule. As rules are changed, something that was once acceptable may now be punished and vice versa. Such officials tend to take a pessimistic view of human nature because of constant exposure to willful deviance.

The sociology of social control seeks to predict and explain the behavior of both rule creators and rule enforcers. The creation and application of explicit rules are seen as characteristics of moralism, or the tendency to treat people as enemies. Among the social conditions that are identified as sources of moralism are status superiority and social remoteness between the agents of social control and the people whose behavior they regulate. Thus, the most likely targets of both rule creators and rule enforcers are those who are socially inferior, culturally different, and personally unknown.[1] It is their behavior that is most likely to seem objectionable and to call forth the strenuous efforts of moral entrepreneurs. Once moral entrepreneurs or claimsmakers define the behaviors of these individuals or groups as deviant or a moral threat, then the entire group may be seen by society as a deviant subculture. Similarly, they or their behavior may be seen as the roots of the next moral panic. This is often the goal of the moral entrepreneurs; to rally the support of society behind their specific aims through the redefining of behaviors and groups as deviant or problematic. Alternately, those individuals with social power, wealth, high status, or large public support bases are the most likely to assert this power and to act as a moral entrepreneur.[2]

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