"Protecting the Weak" – A working definition

The collective dimension of protecting the weak that we are interested in is a symbolic one: who or what the weak are “is of secondary importance in comparison with their symbolical endorsement by which they are considered as valuable. … it is not really possible to identify by themselves the goods that should be protected without first defining what should be socially considered as valuable”.

We therefore hold that stating what is “weak”, and why and how it should be protected, cannot be defined a priori, but is, instead, the result of a process in which the “common good” – in its cultural (political, social, ethical, aesthetic) sense as a singular term – is debated, contested, negotiated, and possibly reimagined and re-defined. In other words, we understand values as being fluent in their nature, and we are, therefore, dealing here with ongoing processes, which might result in temporarily stable value consensuses.

Based upon this assumption of the symbolic nature of the “common good”, our envisaged project will empirically explore the entangled processes of symbolic construction, framing, mobilization and institutionalization of protecting the weak by focusing on a set of comparative empirical studies.