1School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania.
A new sociological agenda is emerging that interrogates how morality can be established in the absence of the moral certainties of the past but there is a shortage of empirical work on this topic. This article establishes a theoretical framework for the empirical analysis of everyday morality drawing on the work of theorists including Ahmed, Bauman and Taylor. It uses the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes to assess the state and shape of contemporary moralities by asking how kind are Australians, how is its expression socially distributed, and what are the motivations for kindness. The findings demonstrate that Australians exhibit a strong attachment and commitment to kindness as a moral value that is primarily motivated by interiorized sources of moral authority. We argue these findings support the work of theorists such as Ahmed and Taylor who argue authenticity and embodied emotion are legitimate sources of morality in today's secular societies. The research also provides new evidence that generational changes are shaping understandings and practices of kindness in unexpected ways.