Seeking Purity, Avoiding Pollution: Strategies for Moral Career Building Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This study builds theory on how people construct moral careers. Analyzing interviews with 102 journalists, we show how people build moral careers by seeking jobs that allow them to fulfill both the institution’s moral obligations and their own material aims. We theorize a process model that traces three common moral claiming strategies that people use over time: conventional, supplemental, and reoriented. Using these strategies, people accept or alter purity and pollution rules, identify appropriate jobs, and orient themselves to specific audiences for validation of their moral claims. People’s careers are punctuated by reckonings that cause them to reconsider how their strategies fulfill their moral and material aims. Experiences of gender and racial discrimination, access to alternate occupational identities, and timing of entry into the occupation also shape people’s movement between strategies. Over time, people combine these moral claiming strategies in different ways such that varying moral careers emerge within the same occupation. Overall, our study shows how people can build moral careers by actively revising purity and pollution rules while holding fast to institutional moral obligations. By theorizing careers as an ongoing series of moral claiming strategies, this research contributes novel ideas about how morals weave through and organize relationships between people, careers, and institutions.

publication date

  • September 2022