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Moralism is a philosophy that arose in the 19th century that concerns itself with imbuing society with a certain set of morals, usually traditional behaviour, but also "justice, freedom, and equality". It has strongly affected North American and British culture, concerning private issues such as the family unit and sexuality, as well as issues that carry over into the public square, such as the temperance movement.



In tracing the origins of moralism, sociologist Malcolm Waters writes that "Moralism emerged from a clash between the unrestrained character of frontier expansionism, a middle-class, Protestant emphasis on respectability cultivated in small-town America and an egalitarian and anti-intellectual evangelism among splinter Protestant groups."

In the 19th century, the issues of abolition and temperance formed the "twin pillars" of moralism, becoming popular through Christian Churches in the United States, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Moralism as promoted by some Christian denominations, such as the Quakers, manifested in wide support for abolitionism.

The rise of postmillennialism in the 19th century "encouraged a general culture of Protestant moralism and pushed it toward a series of social reform movements, from antislavery and abolitionism (freedom for the slaves now), to protests against Indian Removal, to antiwar and peace efforts, to women's rights, to temperance work before and after the Civil War." As such, the campaign for women's suffrage, evidenced by the ethos of organisations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), was highly driven by the moralism of that era.

In the latter part of 20th century, as well as the 21st century, moralists in the United States turned their attention to championing the pro-life movement. Moralists have also focused their efforts in maintaining blue laws, such as those that discourage Sunday shopping, in accordance with first-day Sabbatarian beliefs that resonate with the sensibilities of labourers and trade unions.

A moralist is a writer who writes on mores, a teacher of morals or a moral philosopher. The corresponding term in French is moraliste and in German the profession is called Moralistik.

List of moralists

See also

See also

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