Decent Society: Utopian Horizon or ‘the Way Is the Goal’

Norbert Ebert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores whether the notion of the decent society as a normative concept is applicable under late modern conditions of normative pluralization and individualization. My argument is that the strength of the concept does not primarily lie in its descriptive value. It is rather a ‘utopian horizon’ against which aspects of societies can be analysed. This analytical value can tell us something about the state of various facets of social life. Having to cope with pluralization, individuals are increasingly required to negotiate ambiguous and contradictory norms. It is this negotiation process that defines to a large extent various aspects of contemporary individualization. However, the fact that an individualized negotiation process occurs neither means that this process is characterized by decency nor produces by default a decent society nor a genuine sense of social integration. Thus, I argue that the concept ‘decency’ can make a qualitative addition to normative negotiation processes and thus in terms of social integration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-80
Number of pages9
JournalThesis Eleven
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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