Resistance and Subversion
in Everyday Life
University of California, Berkeley
Opposition, resistance, and subversion are central aspects of social interactions in most cultures that are largely neglected in most explanations of social and moral development. The focus of research on moral development has been either on socialization into the social system or on the types of judgments made at different ages about matters like justice, welfare, and rights. In this chapter, I present a position on morality that gives a central role to conflict, resistance, and subversion in social relationships. Social relationships are many sided, entailing the application of judgments from several domains. Even within the moral domain, positive orientations to justice and concerns for the welfare of others bring with them conflict, opposition, and resistance in the face of inequalities and injustices. Resistance and subversion are common because social arrangements and practices often embody inequalities.
Social resistance and subversion are, therefore, part of most people's everyday lives and have their roots in childhood. I discuss ways in which resistance and subversion are manifested in childhood, become more salient in adolescence, and are particularly common among adults in positions of lesser power within social hierarchies—that is, people in lower social castes or classes, minorities, and in much of the world, girls and women. Accordingly, moral resistance is not reserved for those at supposed “higher” levels of development or people supposedly classified as special or elite in their personal moral characteristics. As part of everyday life, resistance is not re