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Tracing the Contours of An Urban Morality: A Harmonization of Languages Between Moral Psychology, Urban Anthropology, and Political Geography

Urbanites and non-urbanites don’t vote the same. Within a single metropolitan area, political behaviors and their underlying reasoning differ greatly in relation to individuals’ life context. Votes in Switzerland show the strength and the durability of this political geography, which reflects the great disparity between urban, suburban and non-urban political preferences. Given the contemporary modes of life—engaged with translocal mobility, accessibility to information, and socio-spatial declustering—this mapping of politics opposing urban forms appears incongruous. If distance and location tend to become irrelevant—as claimed by some—why does place still matter so much in political behavior? Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt proposes to understand political preferences as resulting from the balance of six moral pillars. These pillars would be universal, although intuitively expressed differently depending on cultural context. While his Moral Foundation Theory, explains partially why Liberals and Conservatives are sensitive to different arguments within political discourses, it gives not much precision on why this transmission is so dependent on micro-regional location. Anthropologists and psychologists have identified numerous social factors that play a role in individual moral reasoning. But to understand why such correspondences exist between place of residence and political preferences, I must first connect the dots between the various disciplines concerned with this matter. In this paper I link contemporary theories in political geography, urban anthropology and moral psychology in order to set up the necessary canvas to address this reality. I thus offer conceptual and methodological tools to be implemented in the geographical assessment of political preferences.

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