from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Icon tools.svg

This item has been on the quality assurance side of the portal sociology entered. This is done in order to bring the quality of the articles on the subject of sociology to an acceptable level. Help eliminate the shortcomings in this article and participate in the discussion . ( Enter article )

In sociology, decency is a standard that is perceived as a matter of course for ethical and moral standards and expectations of good or correct behavior. The decency determines the manners and the way of life.

From the moral decency is so far distinguished, as it is something primarily Ocular that the character does not necessarily reflect a person while morality in mind is anchored a person. The word has experienced multiple changes in meaning over the past 200 years .

Word and conceptual history


The word “decency”, a singular rhetoric , goes back to ahd. Anastantida and mhd. Anestant * , although the meaning of the word was initially different from the modern one. In his critical grammatical dictionary of the High German dialect (1774–1786), Adelung also gave the following meanings, in addition to the modern ones : 1. The queuing of hunters who “stand in a comfortable place and wait for game”; 2. derived from this and in a figurative sense: the postponement of a business; 3. that which causes "decency" in the latter meaning, namely doubts or concerns. From the last two meanings mentioned, the words in German have been objectionable and received without objection to this day .

18th century

The modern meanings of the word “decency” have only the word in common. The first of them emerged in the 18th century as a noun for the verb pending, regardless of the above meanings . During this time the word queuing means u. a. "To stand by (someone)" or "to be in tune with" in terms of clothing and actions in relation to the person wearing the clothing or performing the actions. “This dress suited him very well.” “Dancing suited him very badly.” As a result, in the 18th century, “decency” is also the correspondence of appearance or behavior of a person and what is done by this person based on their character or behavior their social position is expected:

“That which is pending, as far as this verb expresses the proper in the external behavior, the relation of the external behavior with the inner perfections that one has, or at least by virtue of his class and profession, and which should have every time circumstances. Good and bad decency. He dances with excellent manners. The speaker has bad manners. There is an incorrigible propriety in his clothing. What a noble decency there is in his young expression! White. In a narrower sense, good decency. He has the right decency that is appropriate for a courtier. "

- Johann Christoph Adelung : Grammatical-critical dictionary of the High German dialect

In the case of ennobling, the adjective decent primarily denotes a congruence (“That is decent for a princely person”), and only secondarily, in a broader sense, a value judgment (“He knows how to judge everything very skillfully and decently. Decent clothing ”).

However, it was already clear to contemporaries that good decency allows little conclusions to be drawn about a person's character. Kant wrote in 1796/97:

“Nature has a tendency to be fooled, wisely implanted in people, even to save virtue, or at least to lead to it. Good, respectable decency is an outward appearance that inspires respect to others (not to make oneself mean). It is true that women would be poorly satisfied with it if the male sex did not seem to pay homage to her charms. But modesty (pudicitia), a self-compulsion that hides passion, is very beneficial as an illusion to bring about the distance between one and the other sex, which is necessary in order not to degrade one into a mere instrument for the enjoyment of the other. - In general, everything that is called decency (decorum) is of the same kind, namely nothing but a beautiful appearance. "

- Immanuel Kant : Anthropology in a pragmatic way , p. 152

19th century

In the 19th century Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm observed how the purely descriptive, non-judgmental meanings described in Adelung were rarely and increasingly replaced by a new meaning of good decency (good clothing and good behavior).

Even Adolph Knigge ( On dealing with people , 1,788; fatherly advice for my daughter , 1789) was the expression used only sporadically. As a result of his publications, however, a decency literature emerged in Germany in which the term was used frequently, for example in Karl August Heinrich Hoffmann's Indispensable Galanterie Booklet for Budding Elegants (1827).

The phrase "decent girl" was common in the second half of the 19th century, especially in the jargon of job advertisements for servants , and idiomatically referred to an unmarried woman with good character and morally irreproachable behavior. Around the 1870s the phrase began to take on an ironic quotation character, until it became a household word in the early 20th century and now almost always stood for a young woman who refuses to engage in premarital sexual relations. At the same time, in the late 19th century, the idiomatic phrase "decent woman" who does not have extramarital sexual intercourse arose.

A “decent guy”, on the other hand, has been understood since the end of the 19th century to be someone who behaves fairly or even magnanimously towards his peers or towards people who are dependent on him and who does not only act according to regulations or for his own benefit.

In the second half of the 19th century , the adjective decent also received the colloquial meaning of “considerable”: “a decent beating”, “a decent portion […] ”, parallel to words like “fairly”, “properly” and “proper” . ".

20th century

In the early 20th century, Meyer's Large Conversational Lexicon defined :

“Decency (lat. Decorum ), the preservation of such forms of external behavior, which correspond to the dignity of the moral personality in the human being or are considered to be accordingly. The violation of this dignity, be it in one's own person (through insufficient mastery of the purely animal expressions of nature), be it in others, constitutes indecency. As A. relates only to the form of actions, it is to be distinguished from morality, which concerns the disposition, but its formation in the education and development of peoples can be a preliminary stage and preparation of morality be valid."

- Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Volume 1. Leipzig 1905, p. 561


In 2017, the journalist and writer Axel Hacke took up the floor again and dedicated an entire book to him. He is convinced that it is “time” to “get back” the term. One reviewer judged that despite some of the criticism the book drew, it was "fun" to "watch the author think".

See also


  • Karl-Heinz Göttert : Times and Customs. A story of propriety . Stuttgart (Reclam) 2009, ISBN 978-3-15-010703-4
  • Axel Hacke : About decency in difficult times and the question of how we treat each other . Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-95614-200-0 .
  • Joachim Kohlhof: Without decency and morality: Contributions to economic and social ethical discussion , Vol. 10. Rosenberger Fachverlag, 2002.
  • Horst Volker Krumrey: Development structures of behavior standards: A sociological process analysis on the basis of German etiquette and manner books from 1870-1970 , Suhrkamp, ​​1984.
  • Katherina Mitralexi: On dealing with etiquette: on etiquette “dealing with people” and its reception and change in the 19th and 20th centuries , Freiburg: Hochschulverlag (1984).
  • Barbara Zaehle: Knigges dealing with people and its forerunners , a contribution to the history of social ethics . No. 22. C. Winter, 1933.

Web links

Wikiquote: Decency  - Quotes
Wiktionary: decency  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl-Heinz Hillmann : Dictionary of Sociology (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 410). 5th, completely revised and enlarged edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-520-41005-4 , p. 31f. (Keyword "decency").
  2. a b decency. Retrieved October 4, 2017 .
  3. ^ Gerhard Köbler: Letter A. In: Old High German Dictionary, 6th edition, 2014. Accessed on September 30, 2017 . Gerhard Köbler: Letter A. In: Middle High German Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2017 .
  4. a b c decency. In: German dictionary. Retrieved September 29, 2017 .
  5. a b c d Johann Christoph Adelung: decency. In: Grammatical-Critical Dictionary of High German Dialect. Retrieved September 29, 2017 .
  6. complain, complaint. In: German dictionary. Retrieved September 30, 2017 .
  7. ^ Johann Christoph Adelung: decency. Retrieved October 12, 2017 .
  8. Kant: AA VII, Anthropology in pragmatic terms, p. 152. Accessed September 30, 2017 .
  9. Adolph Knigge: About dealing with people . 9th edition. Hahn brothers, Hanover 1817, p. 101 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  10. ^ Karl August Heinrich Hoffmann: Indispensable gallantry booklet for budding elegance . 1827 ( online at ).
  11. ^ Clemens Graf Pinto (editor): Berliner Revue . tape 5 . Berlin 1856 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  12. A. Belot, J. Dautin: The mother murderer . In: Otto Janke (Hrsg.): Roman magazine of the foreign country . Otto Janke, Berlin 1871, p. 329 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  13. ^ Raoul Auernheimer: The great passion: comedy in three acts . Wiener Verlag, Vienna, Leipzig 1905, p. 142 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  14. ^ Conrad Alberti: Driving woman . Freund & Jeckel, Berlin 1895, p. 86 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  15. Paul von Schmidt: The German Officerism and the Zeitströmungen . Liebelsche Buchhandlung, Berlin 1892, p. 26th f . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  16. ^ Passauer Tagblatt: Organ for the interests of medium-sized businesses . No. 249 , October 28, 1874 ( limited preview in Google Book search). Friedrich Gerstäcker (adaptation): Echoes from the primeval forests or sketches of transatlantic life: According to English sources . Wolfgang Gerhard, Leipzig 1847, p. 70 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  17. Axel Hacke : About decency in difficult times and the question of how we treat each other . Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-95614-200-0 .
  18. What is decency? ARD-Mediathek, October 10, 2017, accessed on October 14, 2017 .
  19. ^ Reviews of books from the cultural and human sciences. Axel Hacke: "About decency in difficult times and the question of how we treat each other". In: August 30, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017 .