“To attain individual morality in an age demanding social morality, to pride one’s self on the results of personal effort when the time demands social adjustment, is utterly to fail to apprehend the situation. All about us are men and women who have become unhappy in regard to their attitude toward the social order itself. These men and women have caught a moral challenge raised by the exigencies of contemporaneous life, all are increasingly anxious concerning their actual relations to the basic organizations of society.” ( L&N 95)


This is a quote by Jane Addams, a sociologist and a social theorist focused her work on ethics and society. She founded the Hull house as a settlement house with the purpose of creating a social experiment trying to bridge the widening gap between social classes by going to live among the poor. This was during a time when change was important and when sociologists, such as herself had a defined responsibility to reform and improve society. Addams theorizes that the individual is driven to action by the need for ethics which is rooted in sociability. She believes that individuals desire sociability and a need to be kind to others.

This is reflected in the above quote which is from her work “Democracy and social Ethics.” In this work she explores the very need for ethics within social life and the need for American society to accept a social ethic and collective responsibility. In this quote she is calling for a new social ethic in which there is a need for the individuals to take a collectivist stance in reforming their societies. By trying to focus on the individual and to take pride in one’s own achievements is a complete disregard for the disorder that is going on around them. This is a time when the only way change can be obtained is through a shift from the individual to society and by focusing on the individual is a hindrance to that change. The unhappiness that she explains stems from this selfish attitude and the disappointment in the lack of societal progress. This explains the importance of the quote and the significance that ethics has on societal reform. Without the creation of a new social ethic there can be no significant steps to progress in a society. There needs to be a collective effort, because a selfish individualistic society cannot be sustained and progressive.

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