Confessionalization in Society and the Ethical Neutrality of Companies
Drawing on classical sociology of religion as inherited from Ernst Troeltsch and Max Weber, this project develops the idea of ethical neutrality as a protection mechanism for an increasingly disrupted and disintegrated public sphere. The project argues that in the last two decades, the public sphere has come under pressure from a process of what Troeltsch called ‘confessionalization’, which expresses itself in the formation of sectarian movements that hold up ever rising standards of ethical behaviour not just to their own members but society per se. The outcome is a heightened sensitivity about behaviours deemed inappropriate (e.g. meat-eating, unhealthy lifestyles, but also particular political views) and an increasing pressure to conform to standards of righteousness and virtuosity. The project looks in particular at the role that businesses play in furthering these trends, but also at their potential role to ethically neutralize the public sphere again.