Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Co-construction of Shame in the Context of Poverty: Beyond a Threat to the Social Bond

an article by Elaine Chase and Robert Walker (University of Oxford, UK( published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 4 (August 2013)


Scheff (2000, 2003) has argued that shame, while recognised as a social emotion, is frequently explored outside of the social matrix and with limited reference to its role in human behaviour.

Drawing on empirical qualitative research with adults living in poverty in the UK, this article illuminates
a) how the co-construction of shame (feeling shame and being shamed) is fundamental in framing how people living in poverty respond to the social demands on them; and
b) how shame as a phenomenon may also take on a dynamic of its own, ultimately used by those feeling shame to distance themselves from the socially constructed and denigrated ‘Other’ (Lister, 2004).

The article shifts the analysis beyond shame arising from a threat to the immediate ‘social bond’ (Lewis, 1971), instead presenting it as a social fact which not only undermines human dignity but risks the atomisation of modern society.

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