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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the principle of practical or ideological orientation embracing the negation of moral bases and socially accepted norms of behavior in society; a nihilistic attitude toward all moral norms and principles.

In practice, amoralism either is connected with the moral underdevelopment of an individual or arises as the result of social contradictions leading to the degradation of entire strata of society and to the spiritual disintegration of personality. In theory, amoralism usually substitutes utilitarian, pragmatic, opportunistically political, aesthetic, or individualistic considerations of freedom, self-assertiveness, pleasure-seeking, personal advantage, and so forth, for moral criteria.

As a conscious moral stance, amoralism arises with the disintegration of primitive tribal relationships, the separation of morality from automatic customs and traditional norms of behavior, and the beginning of individual reflection on the established way of life. In ancient society when the breakup of traditional kinship foundations was sharply accelerated and the collisions between different customs and group norms became more frequent, amoralism was expressed in the acknowledgment of the complete relativity, conditionality, and pragmatism of every principle and moral norm and in a negative attitude toward the values of the society’s culture—for example, among the cynics and some sophists. With the further development of class antagonistic societies, amoralism becomes a widespread phenomenon because the official morality is often accompanied in fact by amoralism, and the opposition to this morality sometimes turns into a rejection of any morality whatsoever. During the Renaissance the amoralism of some ideologists of the young bourgeoisie and the feudal church (Machiavelli, the Jesuit Loyola, Liguori, Busembaum) meant that morality had to be completely subordinated to political aims for the sake of which any methods were justifiable (“the end justifies the means”). During the mid-19th century under the spiritual crisis of bourgeois culture F. Nietzsche developed so-called aesthetic immoralism; he declared the spontaneous life force to be the highest value not liable to the judgment of the “slave morality of the crowd,” which tried to level the personality and oppose the assertion of outstanding individuality.

In its most cynical and misanthropic form, amoralism appeared in the ideology and practice of fascism—for instance, the cult of the Führer, which freed his subjects from the “chimera of conscience.” In essence, any attempt to do away with the principles of morality common to all mankind—to declare that conscience, love for mankind, and respect for the individual are superstition—leads to amoralism.

In an antagonistic society the exploiting classes are not interested in observing moral principles, even when they are proclaimed by the official ideology, if these principles do not correspond to the narrow mercenary goals of class rule.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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