Liberty and Obligation: The Moral Lifeworlds of White Middle-Class Americans in Northeastern and Southern US

Jacob Didia-Hansen

Research output: PhD thesis

100 Downloads (Pure)


The focus on individual responsibility in American social policy has meant that communities and extended family have historically been important sources of security in American society. However, since at least the 1950s, critics have considered the white American middle class as a proponent of an individualized mainstream culture that undermines the moral force of communities and extended families. The white American middle class thus appears exceptionally individualized with no sense of obligation towards fellow citizens, communities, or extended family.

Jacob Didia-Hansen interviewed 45 white middle-class Americans from the city of Boston, MA, in the liberal northeast and the city of Knoxville, TN, in the conservative south. He seeks to find out if the white middle class is as individualized and outer-directed as they are often portrayed.

His findings suggests that his interviewees appear very little outer-directed and that they are able to mobilize moral arguments rooted in their regional moral culture when discussing complex topics such as welfare, public education, community commitment, and family obligations. These findings call for more studies in the influence of regional moral culture in the moral lifeworlds of ordinary social actors.
Translated title of the contributionFrihed og forpligtelse: Moralske universer hos den hvide middelklasse i det nordøstlige og sydlige USA
Original languageEnglish
  • Frederiksen, Morten, Principal supervisor
External collaborators
Electronic ISBNs978-87-7573-911-0
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

PhD supervisor:
Professor Morten Frederiksen, Aalborg University

Cite this