Moral-Psychological Underpinnings of Political Dispute

Posted: Jul 05, 2011 2:13 PM
Clive Crook wrote a fascinating column for the Financial Times about the psychological underpinnings of the liberal-conservative divide in this country, as he recounts a talk given to a liberal audience at the Aspen Institute by University of Virginia professor Jonathan Haidt.  Key excerpt:

In the US, differences in these moral-psychological foundations are very marked. The more progressive you are, the harder you find it to understand the claims of loyalty, authority and purity. The more conservative you are, the more indispensable those claims appear to be. This matters because US politics, especially at the conservative end, is powered by the energy at the extremes.

Why did the Aspen audience squirm? Because Prof Haidt also notes that the wider conservative spectrum of moral intuitions is the global norm. Those conservative impulses are nearly universal across world religions and cultures. Secular liberals are the anomaly.

Crook concludes by wondering why secular liberals in this country find it so difficult to treat evangelical conservatives with the same "elaborate respect" they extend to Muslims and Buddhists.