Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory


Focus: The Moral Normativity of Social Norms 
2024 (46) Issue 1

When and why do socially constructed norms have moral authority? Laura Valentini’s Morality and Socially Constructed Norms, published with Oxford University Press in 2023, seeks to provide an answer to this question. Therefore, she develops an “agency-respect” account, according to which socially constructed norms that express people’s authentic and permissible commitments can give rise to moral obligations to comply with these norms, at least if this is not too costly. Valentini’s account allows us to determine when it is imperative – and when it is not – to recognize a moral reason for an action simply in virtue of the existence of a socially constructed norm. Thus, we can better distinguish when we should sincerely try – and when we truly need not care about – complying with a given social norm. We may, for example, understand better as to why or why not it is morally relevant to comply with French eating habits or with British conventions of how to enter a bus. 
At first glance, Valentini’s analysis of the morality of socially constructed norms may appear as contribution to niche discussions in meta-ethics and social philosophy. Yet Valentini demonstrates the theoretical fruitfulness and explanatory power of her “agency-respect” account by employing it to assess a whole range of intricate problems in practical philosophy. These problems include the foundation of moral rights, the obligation to obey the law, and the wrong of violating sovereignty. Thereby she also shows how insightful her account turns out to be for responding to long-standing questions in moral, legal, and political philosophy. 
We invite submissions on Valentini’s book as well as on issues that are related to the theme of the book by March 15, 2024.