Grant McCracken on How To Reengineer the Honor Code
Reason magazine|June 2021
IN THE NEW Honor Code: A Simple Plan for Raising Our Standards and Restoring Our Good Names (Tiller Press), anthropologist, brand consultant to the stars, and past Reason contributor Grant McCracken explores the history and use of the honor code, arguing for its relevance to our private and public lives today.
NICK GILLESPIE

McCracken has consulted on the intersection of culture and commerce for IKEA, Sesame Street, Nike, Kanye West, Netflix, and the Obama White House. He spoke with Reason’s Nick Gillespie in January.

Q: Can you define the Elizabethan ideal of honor?

A: Honor was like a storehouse of value. The value wasn’t economic; it was personal. You were judged and understood to be accomplished, or to have failed to accomplish, a personal reputation.

Q: So the honor code meant you were a man of your word and could be trusted?

A: Yes, and it’s also horrifying because it’s so exclusive. It says that unless you’re born into the aristocratic or at least the gentle classes, you can’t be trusted at all. I tried to go through the book as a kind of cultural engineer and bring up what’s good and get rid of what’s bad.

Q: What are some recent American examples where honor was just completely absent?

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