Moral Foundations of Welfare Attitudes: The Role of Moral Intuition and Reasoning in Pursuing Social Justice


The article interconnects the research on welfare attitudes and welfare chauvinism with moral psychology in order to develop an interdisciplinary analytical approach designed for studying attitudes to welfare policies and potentially overcoming the divisions prevalent in many European democracies. It introduces Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) - an empirical approach to analysing intuitions, reasoning, and emotions constituting moral judgment - and outlines its understanding of competing versions of fairness and distributive justice. The potential contributions of MFT are exemplified on a case study situated in contemporary Slovakia which deals with two conflicting conceptions of fairness, as equity and as equality, embodied in the diverging attitudes towards an amendment to the Act on the Assistance in Material Need (2013). The article argues that MFT and related research programmes are irreplaceable components in an interdisciplinary study of the plurality of welfare policy attitudes. It also highlights the transformative potential of MFT and related research programmes in devising interventions aimed at changing (political) attitudes to welfare and reducing their polarisation.

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