Democracy and the death of shame (2016)
political equality and social disturbance
Is shame dead? With personal information made so widely available, an eroding public/private distinction, and a therapeutic turn in public discourse, many seem to think so. People across the political spectrum have criticized these developments and sought to resurrect shame in order to protect privacy and invigorate democratic politics. Democracy and the Death of Shame reads the fear that 'shame is dead' as an expression of anxiety about the social disturbance endemic to democratic politics. Far from an essential supplement to democracy, the recurring call to 'bring back shame' and other civilizing mores is a disciplinary reaction to the work of democratic citizens who extend the meaning of political equality into social realms. Rereadings from the ancient Cynics to the mid-twentieth century challenge the view that shame is dead and show how shame, as a politically charged idea, is disavowed, invoked, and negotiated in moments of democratic struggle.