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Order (virtue)

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Order (virtue)

Order is the planning of resources, as well as of society.[1]

Although order is rarely discussed as a virtue in contemporary society, order is in fact central to improving efficiency, and is at the heart of time management strategies such as David Allen's Getting Things Done.


  • Emergence 1
  • Romantic reaction 2
  • Sociology 3
  • Psychology 4
  • 20th-century examples 5
  • Culture 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further Reading 9
  • External links 10


The valorisation of order in the early stages of commercialization and industrialisation was linked by R. H. Tawney to Puritan concerns for system and method in 17th-century England.[2] The same period saw English prose developing the qualities Matthew Arnold described as “regularity, uniformity, precision, balance”.[3]

"Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time" is a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin in 1730, while he was 20 years old. It was part of his 13 virtues.[4][5]

A darker view of the early modern internalisation of order and discipline was taken by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things and Discipline and Punish;[6] but for Rousseau love of order both in nature and in the harmonious psyche of the natural man was one of the tap-roots of moral conscience.[7]

Romantic reaction

The sixties hippie.[10]

"Latter-day attempts such as those of Deidre McCloskey to reclaim the bourgeois virtues like order may be met in some quarters only by laughter."[11]


Sociologists, while noting that praise of order is generally associated with a conservative stance – one that can be traced back through Edmund Burke and Richard Hooker to Aristotle[12] - point out that many taken-for-granted aspects of social order (such as which side of the road to drive on) produce substantial and equitable advantages for individuals at very little personal cost.[13] Conversely, breakdowns in public order reveal everyone's daily dependence upon the smooth functioning of the wider society.[14]

Durkheim saw anomie as the existential reaction to the ordered disorder of modern society.[15]


Jungians considered orderliness (along with restraint and responsibility) as one of the virtues attributable to the senex or old man - as opposed to the spontaneous openness of the puer or eternal youth.[16]

Freud saw the positive traits of orderliness and conscientiousness as rooted in anal eroticism.[17]

20th-century examples

Freud himself was a highly organised personality, ordering his life – at work and play – with the regularity of a timetable.[18]

External links

William Osler, Aequanimitas (New York 1963)

Further Reading

  1. ^ Erving Goffman, Relations in Public (1972) p. 15
  2. ^ R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1937) p. 193-5
  3. ^ Quoted in Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues (2006) p. 164
  4. ^ Franklin, Benjamin. "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: Chapter Eight". 
  5. ^ Kurtus, Ron (7 February 2005). "Benjamin Franklin's Thirteen Virtues". 
  6. ^ G. Gutting ed., The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2002) p. 97-9
  7. ^ Lawrence D. Cooper, Rousseau, Nature, and the Problem of the Good Life (2006) p. 92-6
  8. ^ McCloskey, p. 31-2 and p. 69
  9. ^ M. H. Abrams, The mirror and the lamp (1971) p. 24
  10. ^ E. Hoffman ed., Future Visions (1996) p. 144
  11. ^ McCloskey, p. 5
  12. ^ Shelley Burke, Virtue Transformed (2006) p. 54
  13. ^ Goffman, p. 16
  14. ^ Goffman< p. 16-17
  15. ^ John O'Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (1972) p. 181
  16. ^ M. Jacoby, The Analytic Encounter (1984) p. 118
  17. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 209
  18. ^ Peter Gay, Freud (1989) p. 157
  19. ^ Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello? (1974) p. 268
  20. ^ Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems (1984) p. 130


See also

Wallace Stevens wrote of the “blessed rage for order” in Ideas of Order (1936).[20]



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