In my last post, I talked very briefly about the leftist oppression-based morality, versus the religious sin-based one. It’s a concept I’ve been thinking about for a while, so it deserves a slightly less brief exploration.
The sin-based morality deserves little exposition, since we all know what it’s based on. The five sixths of the world’s people who are religious have made sure knowing the basics of sin-based morality is basic cultural knowledge everywhere. Even the one dominant conservative morality that’s secular, Confucianism, is sin-based.
That’s obviously not the only way to organize things. The liberal moral system is, ostensibly, based on rights and infringements. In this conception, you don’t start with what you must do or refrain from doing, but with what you, as an individual, have the right to expect. Even moral prescriptions that are identical to sin-based ones are framed differently: “you shall not murder” becomes “everyone has the right to life”; “give 1/40th of your wealth to charity” becomes “freedom from want.”
But in practice, most liberals employ a morality based not on the individualist conception of rights, but on the egalitarian one of oppression. The religious concept of sinning against God or (wo)man then becomes the concept of oppressing some marginalized group: women, minorities, homosexuals, fat people, etc. It tends to work better than merely talking about rights, because a) it also holds that inaction can be oppressive, b) for the last 200 years the spearhead of liberalism has been not just rights but also equal rights, c) it fosters greater in-group boundedness, and d) it relates to more leftist moralities than just the liberal one.
It’s certainly a good frame to understand various intra-left debates, like the one on Feministing about prostitution (which, incidentally, is clocking at 51 comments so far without a single radical inanity).