Arguing for a Return to Social Conformity

By Fields, Suzanne | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 4, 1996 | Go to article overview

Arguing for a Return to Social Conformity


Fields, Suzanne, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


If you didn't see the lists of "what's in" and "what's out" at the end of the year, you may have missed the discovery that "guilt" is out and "shame" is in.

The intellectually hip come and go, discussing the different meanings of guilt and shame from philosophical, psychological, moral, literary, anthropological and political points of view.

In therapy, this means that Freudian soul-searching analysis is out; Alcoholics Anonymous is in. (So is Prozac.) Exploring the roots of behavior is out; changing behavior is in. The shrill whine of "let it all hang out" confession is out; facing life like a man is in. Victims are out; heroes are in. Individual bravado is out; group conformity is in. Listening to the inner voice and "doing your own thing" are out; ceremony and good manners are in. Alienation is out; family is in. Self-esteem is out; self-respect is in.

"Theoretically, the difference is this: a shame culture provides a uniform code of conduct to promote civility, propriety, dignity, integrity, and honor," Stuart Schneiderman writes in "Saving Face: The Politics of Shame and Guilt." "Group cohesion is more important than individual expression, and good behavior is encouraged by knowledge that the consequence of deviation is expulsion from the group. The behavior of each individual reflects well or badly on the group reputation."

In this thesis, Japan is a shame culture, and so was the United States when the Puritan ethic predominated and public interests prevailed over private concerns. Even Alexis de Tocqueville saw America's cultural roots in a shame culture, for example in relation to marriage and the family: "In America all those vices that tend to impair the purity of morals and to destroy the conjugal tie are treated with a degree of severity unknown in the rest of the world."

All this bolsters Mr. Schneiderman's definitions of shame and guilt, and so far as he draws extensively on other thinkers from American, European and Asian intellectual history to make his points, his book fascinates. But it's not an easy read. He relies too often on contrasts that suit his polarities of thought but that blur rather than clarify his distinctions.

The driving force for his argument is that America started to go to seed when it made guilt the measure of man, giving individual rebellion a status it didn't deserve, culminating in the Woodstock generation. "Many people who consult psychotherapists are suffering from an excess of individuality," Mr. Schneiderman says.

Our guilt culture, he argues, allowed a generation to portray capitalism as demonic, a system that preys on innocent people. The Vietnam War became the evil engine of this demon, for which our leaders never apologized. Consequently, prescribed rituals and ceremonies that bind us together with the pride of national identity, such as pledging allegiance to the flag or putting on the country's uniform, were perceived as limiting independent (i.e., egotistical) experience.

The rebel with or without a cause was accorded an unearned status. Nothing could be worse than conformity. In a guilt culture, every man is his own judge. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Arguing for a Return to Social Conformity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.