INTRODUCTION: FIGHTING FOR THE HIGH GROUND: ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON MORAL CONFLICT
Why have questions of public and private morality become such important areas of contemporary discussion? What are the implications of the increasing concern with ethics that has emerged across a number of different fields? Questions of personal and collective conduct have always been central to social life. However, divergent moral standpoints on a range of issues, such as sexual and reproductive choice, the politics of food, the rights and responsibilities of parenting, care of the elderly, human-environment relationships, animal welfare or the definition of life and death, have become highly confrontational. While it might be argued that moral evaluation has decreased its hold on aspects of behaviour for particular social groups, for example in relation to sexual activity, behind broad statistical trends countervailing processes are also significant. Moreover, moral questions and value-based politics have increasingly moved into other arenas. The more than 20 ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ Commissions that have been convened in the last 30 years are one testimony to the enhanced significance of ethical debate as a powerful dimension of social and political practice.