Democracy and Social Ethics

Front Cover
University of Illinois Press, 2002 - Philosophy - 127 pages
Nearly a century before the advent of "multiculturalism," Jane Addams put forward her conception of the moral significance of diversity. Each member of a democracy, Addams believed, is under a moral obligation to seek out diverse experiences, making a daily effort to confront others' perspectives. Morality must be seen as a social rather than an individual endeavor, and democracy as a way of life rather than merely a basis for laws. Failing this, both democracy and ethics remain sterile, empty concepts.
In this, Addams's earliest book on ethics--presented here with a substantial introduction by Charlene Haddock Seigfried--she reflects on the factors that hinder the ability of all members of society to determine their own well-being. Observing relationships between charitable workers and their clients, between factory owners and their employers, and between household employers and their servants, she identifies sources of friction and shows how conceiving of democracy as a social obligation can lead to new, mutually beneficial lines of conduct. She also considers the proper education of workers, struggles between parents and their adult daughters over conflicting family and social claims, and the merging of politics with the daily lives of constituents.
"The sphere of morals is the sphere of action," Addams proclaims. It is not enough to believe passively in the innate dignity of all human beings. Rather, one must work daily to root out racial, gender, class, and other prejudices from personal relationships.
 

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Contents

Charitable Effort
11
Filial Relations
35
Household Adjustment
48
Industrial Amelioration
63
Educational Methods
80
Political Reform
98
Index
121
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

Jane Addams was born Laura Jane Addams in Cedarville, Illinois, on September 6, 1860. She graduated from Rockford Female Seminary with the hope of attending medical school. Her father opposed her unconventional ambition and, in an attempt to redirect it, sent her to Europe. In London, Addams was moved by the work done at Toynbee Hall, a settlement house. Upon her return to the United States, she began her lifelong fight for the underprivileged, women, children laborers, and social reform. In the space of four years she received Yale University's first honorary doctorate awarded to a woman, published her first book, was the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, and was elected vice president of the National American Women Suffrage Association. In 1915 she became the first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. With Ellen G. Starr, Addams founded Hull House in Chicago, a renowned settlement house dedicated to serving the disadvantaged and the poor. Addams went on to author twelve books, including Twenty Years in Hull House, Newer Ideals of Peace, and Peace and Bread in Time of War. The latter title was written to protest the U.S.'s involvement in World War I and was based on Addams's experience assisting Herbert Hoover in sending relief supplies to women and children in enemy nations. Hospitalized following a heart attack in 1926, Addams could not accept in person the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1931. She was the first American woman to receive the honor. Addams died in 1935.

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