article3 To be published in Symbolic Interaction

Thomas J. Scheff
Abstract: Although shame may be the master emotion of everyday life, it is usually invisible in modern societies because of taboo. Evidence for a taboo is suggested by a review of shame studies. The work that concerns shame by Cooley, Freud, Elias, Lynd, Goffman, Lewis, and Tomkins has been largely ignored. Their work implies a vital connection between shame and social life: shame can be seen as a signal of threat to the bond. If so, understanding shame would be necessary for the study of social systems. The taboo on shame in English still holds: current usage, for the most part, assigns a singular meaning that is intense and narrow. This meaning offends, on the one hand, and, on the other, misses the everyday function of shame. Perhaps the problem can be approached, as it is in traditional societies, by the use of a broader term, such as bond affect, or Shame. Such a concept could lead to discovering the emotional/relational world.

*I would like to acknowledge my debt to Kathy Charmaz and the reviewers she chose. Their comments on style and substance have resulted in a final version that is considerably clearer and broader than the draft that I originally submitted.
 Emotion has long been recognized in sociology as crucially important, but most references to it are generalized and vague. In this essay, I nominate shame, specifically, as the premier social emotion.

Many sociological theorists have implied that emotions are a powerful force . Although Weber didn’t refer to emotions directly, his emphasis on values as the foundation of social structure implies it, since values are emotionally charged beliefs. Durkheim implicated collective sentiments in the creation of solidarity through moral community.  Parsons promoted emotion to a component of social action in his AGIL scheme (Parsons and Shils 1955). Even Marx and Engels involved emotions in class tensions and in the solidarity of rebellious classes.

But the classic formulations have led nowhere, because they concerned emotions in general. Our knowledge of emotions is not generalized, but particular. For example, we believe we know a great deal about anger: sources from which it arises, different forms it can take, and some of its outcomes. We also have similar kinds of beliefs about other primary emotions, such as fear, grief, shame, contempt, disgust, love and joy.

Our shared beliefs about specific emotions allow us to communicate with each other on this topic, and restrain flights of fancy. The different emotions may have several underlying similarities, but what is much more obvious are the differences in origins, appearance, and trajectories. It is for this reason that general statements have so little meaning. Some of what Durkheim, Mead, and Parsons said about emotion might appear plausible when applied to one emotion, say anger or fear, but not to others.
In any case, even the theorists who dealt with emotions explicitly did not develop concepts of emotion, investigate their actual occurrence in real life, nor collect data. Their discussions of emotion, therefore, have not resulted in knowledge that would improve upon our shared beliefs. In this essay I examine a specific emotion, shame, in some detail.

The Taboo on Shame
The psychologist Gershen Kaufman has argued that shame is taboo in our society:
American society is a shame-based culture, but …shame remains hidden. Since there is shame about shame, it remains under taboo. …. The taboo on shame is so strict …that we behave as if shame does not exist (Kaufman 1989 Italics added; see also Kaufman and Raphael 1984; Scheff 1984.)

In this article, I review earlier studies of shame, showing the response to them has been, as Kaufman claims, to act as if shame doesn’t exist. A large part of the cultural defense against shame is linguistic; the English language, particularly, disguises shame. I will review sociological and psychoanalytic approaches, with emphasis on the contributions of Cooley on shame, and Goffman on embarrassment. I will also show why it might be necessary to establish a new working concept of bond affect that I propose to call Shame. This concept, together with a theory and method of emotional/relational process and structure, could lead to understanding the intimate links between self and society.

According to one current definition, a taboo involves:
The prohibition of an action or the use of an object based on ritualistic distinctions of them either as being sacred and consecrated or as being dangerous, unclean, and accursed…(Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

Shame is not consecrated in modern societies. Perhaps “unclean.” come closest to catching the flavor. Kaufman’s idea that there is shame about shame explains, more precisely, why shame seems to be taboo in modern societies. Because there is usually shame about shame, one risks offense by referring to it. Defining taboo as an institution that evokes shame, because it points to an identifiable process, may be an improvement over other definitions.
The encyclopedia definition goes on to note a very general point about taboos that will also be emphasized here:
…There is broad agreement that the taboos current in any society tend to relate to objects and actions that are significant for the social order and that belong to the general system of social control.  (Idem)

Although Elias (1939) didn’t use the term taboo, his study of manners through hundreds of years of European history offers an explanation of Kaufman’s idea in terms of social control. Elias found that the civilizing process in Europe was built on two contradictory movements:  increasing use of shame as an internal control, on the one hand, and increasing repression of shame, on the other. Elias’s findings will be further discussed below.

To understand the crucial function played by shame in systems of social control, it will first be necessary to define it in a way that is broader than current usage. The narrowest conceptions are found in vernacular English, orthodox psychoanalytic theory, and experimental social psychology. A broad conception is found in qualitative and micro-linguistic research, and in vernacular usage in traditional societies . It is also implied in theories developed by Mead, Cooley, and Goffman, as discussed below.
European languages other than English have two kinds of shame. In German, for example, there is schande (disgrace shame) and scham (everyday shame). French makes exactly the same distinction, honte and pudeur. With the exception of English, the languages of all modern societies have a word for everyday shame, and another word for disgrace shame. Everyday shame usually carries no offense;  a tacit understanding of everyday shame (a sense of shame) is usually treated as a necessary part of one’s equipment as a proper person. Since English has no word for everyday shame, one cannot discuss shame in English without risking offense. In this way, English, uniquely among all languages, blocks off a whole area of personhood from discussion .

One way around the taboo is rather than referring to shame, to use a softer, less offensive member of the same family of emotions. Goffman took this route. The books that established his reputation imply that embarrassment is the key emotion in social interaction, as Goffman himself stated explicitly in his essay on embarrassment (1967).  Brown and Levinson (1987) observed the centrality of   embarrassment in Goffman’s work, but only in passing. Schudson (1984) noted this emphasis but made an issue of it. He complained that although Goffman seemed to be saying that embarrassment is crucially important, he never explained why. A preliminary attempt to answer this question was offered by Heath (1988):

Embarrassment lies at the heart of the social organization of day-to-day conduct. It provides a personal constraint on the behavior of the individual in society and a public response to actions and activities considered problematic or untoward. Embarrassment and its potential play an important part in sustaining the individual’s commitment to social organization, values and convention. It permeates everyday life and our dealings with others. It informs ordinary conduct and bounds the individual’s behavior in areas of social life that formal and institutionalized constraints do not reach.  (p. 137)
This paper seeks a more comprehensive answer. Building on the work of earlier theorists, I propose a definition of shame (in its broad sense) and a theory and method for studying its role in self and society. The first issue to be faced is that shame is both a social and a psychological phenomenon.

 Shame Arises Because the Self is Social
 Social conceptions of the self can serve as the background for a broad definition of shame. Mead (1934) proposed that the self is a social phenomenon as much as a biological one. His fundamental insight into consciousness was that it arose out of role taking, of seeing things from the point of view of the other(s), as well as from one’s own point of view. This idea is central to the social psychology of Mead, Cooley, and Goffman.

Mead himself gave very little attention to shame or any other emotion. The problem that he attacked was the basis of reflective intelligence. He needed the idea of role taking to explain the origins of intelligence and objectivity. However, a contemporary of Mead’s, Charles Cooley, in his version of role taking, noted that reading the mind of the other would usually generate emotions.
For Cooley (1922), shame and pride both arose from seeing oneself from the point of view of the other.  In his discussion of what he called the “self-sentiments,” pride and shame are mentioned as two of the emotions possible. But his concept of "the looking glass self," which implies the social nature of the self, refers directly and exclusively to pride and shame. Cooley saw self-monitoring in three steps (l84):
A self-idea of this sort seems to have three principal elements: the imagination of our appearance to the other person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification.

In this passage he restricts self-feelings to the two he thought the most significant, pride and shame (considering "mortification" to be a shame variant).  To make sure we understand this point, he mentions shame three more times in the passage that follows (l84-85, emphasis added):
The comparison with a looking-glass hardly suggests the second element, the imagined judgment, which is quite essential. The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflec-tion of ourselves, but an imputed sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon another's mind. This is evident from the fact that the character and weight of that other, in whose mind we see ourselves, makes all the difference with our feeling. We are ashamed to seem evasive in the presence of a straightforward man, cowardly in the presence of a brave one, gross in the eyes of a refined one and so on. We always imagine, and in imagining share, the judg-ments of the other mind. A man will boast to one person of an action—say some sharp transaction in trade—which he would be ashamed to own to another.

The way in which Cooley linked intersubjective connectedness, on the one hand, with pride and shame, on the other, could have been the basis for a general social psychological theory of bond affect. Even though the looking glass self was appreciated and frequently cited in mainstream sociology and social psychology, the part involving pride and shame was simply ignored. Why?
Like most of the pioneers in the study of emotions, Cooley didn’t attempt to define what he meant by pride or shame. He simply used these words as if their meaning were simple and singular. But in Western societies, the meaning of pride and shame is neither simple nor singular. The meaning of these words is complex, and laden with emotion. Unless prefaced by an adjective like genuine or justified, the word pride carries a strong connotation of arrogance and selfishness, the kind of pride that “goeth before the fall.” The unadorned word pride, that is, is taken to be false pride or vanity.

As already indicated, the word shame alone also has negative connotations to the point that it is taboo. Perhaps because he was born in the 19th century, when these words may have been less weighted with feeling, Cooley could have been unaware of the problem. It appears that his readers didn’t know what to make of his emphasis on pride and shame. In any case, his insights into the relationship between attunement and emotion were ignored until my review (Scheff 1990), a hiatus of 68 years.
Goffman also pursued the idea of emotions arising out role taking, but formulated it less directly than Cooley, dealing with embarrassment rather than shame. But more than Cooley, and much more than Mead, Goffman fleshed out the link between embarrassment and role taking by providing many examples (1959; 1963; 1963a; 1967). These examples allow the reader concrete understanding of ideas that are only abstractions in Mead and Cooley.

The idea of impression management, crucial in most of Goffman’s writing, made the avoidance of embarrassment a central motive of interpersonal behavior. Goffman’s Everyperson is always desperately worried about his image in the eyes of others, trying to present himself with his best foot forward. Goffman’s work vivifies Cooley’s abstract idea of the way in which the looking glass generates emotion, giving the idea roots in the reader’s imagination.

Goffman also made the key sociological point about embarrassment: it arises out of slights, real, anticipated, or just imagined, NO MATTER HOW TRIVIAL they might appear to the outside observer. Everyone is extremely sensitive to the exact nuance of deference they receive. This is Goffman's key contribution to emotion knowledge.
Goffman affirmed Cooley’s point of the ubiquity of emotion in normal, everyday social relationships. In Goffman’s language:
One assumes that embarrassment is a normal part of normal social life, the individual becoming uneasy not because he is personally maladjusted but rather because he is not… embarrassment is not an irrational impulse breaking through social prescribed behavior, but part of this orderly behavior itself. (1967, p. 109 and 111)

It was fortunate, perhaps, in terms of the size of his readership, that Goffman chose to focus on embarrassment, without connecting it to shame. It’s not clear whether Goffman chose that strategy intentionally. One piece of the puzzle is suggested by his book Stigma (1963a). Since shame is the central topic of this work, it provided him with ample opportunity to explore the relationship between embarrassment and shame. But he did not: shame is mentioned only a few times, and in passing.
In fairness to Goffman, although he emphasized embarrassment, in his early work he didn’t avoid shame completely. In the 30 pages of Chapter VI (1959), he mentioned shame or ashamed 4 times, guilt and humiliation once each, and embarrassment 7 times. But this count underplays his consideration of everyday bond affects, because there are many more images that imply them.

One example from the same chapter should be enough to make this point:
He may … add to the precariousness of his position by engaging in just those defensive maneuvers that would employ if he were really guilty.  In this way it is possible for all of us to become fleetingly for ourselves the worst person we can imagine that others might imagine us to be. (236, Italics added)

This image, of seeing one’s self negatively in the eyes of others, was perceived as the origin of shame or embarrassment by Darwin, Cooley, and Goffman himself. Although I haven’t made an actual count, I propose that it is invoked constantly by Goffman, particularly in his most popular work. Although Goffman doesn’t credit Cooley directly, the central theme of Presentation of Self, and much of Goffman’s later writing, is an elaboration on Cooley’s thesis: since we live in the minds of others, pride and shame (in its broad sense as bond affect), are the master emotions of everyday life.

Surprisingly, Goffman was not content with only a conceptual definition, but also offered an operational one:
An individual may recognize extreme embarrassment in others and even in himself by the objective signs of emotional disturbance: blushing, fumbling, stuttering, an unusually low- or high-pitched voice, quavering speech or breaking of the voice, sweating, blanching, blinking, tremor of the hand, hesitating or vacillating movement, absentmindedness, and malapropisms. As Mark Baldwin remarked about shyness, there may be "a lowering of the eyes, bowing of the head, putting of hands behind the back, nervous fingering of the clothing or twisting of the fingers together, and stammering, with some incoherence of idea as expressed in speech.” There are also symptoms of a subjective kind: constriction of the diaphragm, a feeling of wobbliness, consciousness of strained and unnatural gestures, a dazed sensation, dryness of the mouth, and tenseness of the muscles. In cases of mild discomfiture, these visible and invisible flusterings occur but in less perceptible form (Goffman 1967, emphasis added).

This definition links an interior emotion with surface observables. With his usual uncanny instinct, in the last sentence he even seems to hint at the need for further elaboration of the operational definition: "these visible and invisible flusterings [that accompany embarrassment], but in less perceptible form." This clause seems to point toward the development of more elaborate coding systems for the verbal and gestural indicators of shame and embarrassment, such as the one by Retzinger (1991; 1995).

Goffman’s attempt at defining embarrassment is even more extraordinary in the context of contemporary social science. The few social science theorists who emphasize emotions seldom define them, even conceptually. There is no hint of even a conceptual definition in Freud, Cooley, or Simmel (1904).  Another example is Elias’s masterwork, The Civilizing Process (1939). His proposition that the threshold for shame is advanced in the civilizing process is the central thread. In a later work of Elias’s, The Germans (1996), shame is again frequently evoked, though not explicitly as in the earlier study.

Yet Elias offered no definition of shame in either book, seeming to assume that the reader would understand the concept of shame in the same way that he did.  The Civilizing Process [TCP] entails an analysis of shame in many excerpts from advice and etiquette manuals in five languages over six centuries.  The analysis of the excerpts is intuitive, and in most cases, inferential. That is, the word shame is sometimes used in the excerpts that he selected, but much more frequently it is not.
Elias relied on unexplicated interpretations of cue words and phrases in context.  Even if his interpretations were fairly accurate, he still gave little direction to future research on the subject. Unlike Elias and most other analysts of emotion, Goffman took at least the initial step toward overcoming this problem.

In opposition to Cooley and Goffman, Jack Katz (Ch. 3, 1999) offers a complex but narrow definition of shame:
…an (1) eerie revelation to self that (2) isolates one (3) in the face of an sacred community. What is revealed is a (4) moral inferiority that makes one (5) vulnerable to (6) irresistible forces. As a state of feeling, shame is (7) fearful, (8) chaotic, (9) holistic and (10) humbling. (p. 147)

The way these ten components are closely linked implies that there is only one type of shame, and each component also implies crisis and disgrace, as in vernacular usage, rather than a continuing presence in everyday life.
In contrast, Retzinger and I have defined shame broadly. Retzinger’s central study concerned the exchange of feelings, second by second, in marital quarrels (1991). From her analysis of discourse in these quarrels, she developed a methodology for identifying shame and anger, even when the subjects’ are not aware of their own feelings. Retzinger also developed a theory of destructive conflict, based on a review of the social science literature on conflict, as well as her own findings. My own work on shame has relied on Retzinger’s, both her methods for identifying shame and anger in discourse, and her theory of destructive conflict (Scheff 1994). Our work proposes that shame cannot be understood within an individualistic, asocial framework.

Social Definitions of Shame
There are also social definitions of shame in maverick psychoanalysis, sociology, and psychology that define shame broadly. The opening salvo was fired by Erikson (1950), who rejected Freud’s assumption that guilt was the primary moral emotion for adults. He argued instead that shame was the more elemental, in that it concerned the whole self, not just one’s actions.
This idea was expanded by the sociologist Helen Lynd (1958), whose exposition of the importance of shame to the self and social life is remarkably clear. Her approach to shame did not test hypotheses, but used concrete examples to clarify the idea of shame. She was the first to recognize the need for a CONCEPT of shame that would be clearly defined, and that would differentiate it from vernacular usage.

Tomkins, who recognized the central role that shame plays in self-process, took the next step. In his volume on the negative affects (1963, V. II) he devoted almost 500 pages to a very detailed and comprehensive discussion of shame and humiliation. Tomkins argued explicitly that embarrassment, shame, and guilt should be recognized as members of a single affect family, as I do here.
The work that Tomkin’s did on emotions was extensive and important, and has had considerable influence on emotion research. His idea that has had the most influence is that the seat of the emotions is in the face. There have been hundreds of studies of the facial expression of emotion. But these studies have contributed little to shame knowledge, for two reasons.
First, the leaders in this approach, Ekman et al (1972), decided that there was no consensus on the facial expression of shame, and therefore it wasn’t a genuine emotion. It is puzzling that Ekman thought he was following Tomkins, yet ignored the emotion to which Tomkins gave the most attention. The Ekman et al studies, and those of most of the others who followed their lead, have ignored shame. Whatever Ekman’s reasoning for excluding shame, the exclusion also suggests the working of the taboo on shame .
A second difficulty is that even the facial expression researchers who study shame look at only at still photographs, ignoring context and the sequencing of affects. For these reasons, Tomkin’s work and the work of those who have followed him has had limited usefulness. Nathanson’s (1992) work, for example, is based on Tomkin’s affect theory, but like Tomkins, fails to offer adequate conceptual and operational definitions of shame.
In contrast to Tomkins, the psychologist/psychoanalyst Helen Lewis (Lewis (1971b) developed an elaborate conceptual definition of shame and used an operational definition in her research. Her conceptual definition is suggested by one of her schematics.

(Table 1 here)

Table 1 is from Retzinger (1991), adapted from Lewis (1971)
This table suggests the broadness of Lewis’s shame concept. Unlike any other emotion, shame depends only on specific aspects of social relationships. As implied by the table, one can generate any specific bond affect by utilizing one or more of the six dimensions.

A second contribution by Lewis is the idea that shame is inherently a social emotion (1971). Her formulation was biopsychosocial. She asserted that human beings are social by biological inheritance. That is, she implied that shame is an instinct that has the function of signaling threats to the social bond. Just as the instinctual emotion of fear signals danger to life and limb, shame also signals a potential threat to survival, especially for an infant, threat to a social bond.  In this same vein, Kaufman (1989) proposed that shame dynamics are part of the interpersonal bridge that connects individuals who would otherwise lead isolated existences.

On the basis of her empirical study of shame in psychotherapy, Lewis contributed to a broad definition of shame by proposing that most shame states seem to be outside of awareness. Her first book on shame (1971) was based on an analysis of verbatim transcripts of hundreds of psychotherapy sessions.

She encountered shame because she used a systematic method for identifying emotions in verbal transcripts, the Gottschalk-Gleser method (1969; 1995). This method involves long lists of key words that are correlated with specific emotions, such as anger, grief, fear, anxiety, and shame. This method forced Lewis to encounter shame as the dominant emotion in the sessions she analyzed. She found that anger, fear, grief, and anxiety cues showed up from time to time in the transcripts. What she was unprepared for was the massive frequency of shame cues. Her methodology was complex, in that once a shame episode was located by Gottschalk’s method, Lewis also applied a qualitative method, analyzing each episode word by word.
The findings from her study most relevant to this article are:
1. Prevalence: Lewis found a high frequency of shame markers in all the sessions, far outranking markers of all other emotions combined. This finding alone suggests that shame was a dominant force in the sessions she analyzed.
2. Lack of awareness: Lewis noted that although shame markers were frequent in all of the sessions, both patient and therapist seldom referred to shame or it’s near cognates. Even the relatively mild word embarrassment was little used. In analyzing shame episodes, Lewis identified a specific context: situations in which the patient seemed to feel distant from, rejected, criticized, or exposed by the therapist, generated a cloud of shame markers. This context fits the proposition that shame arises from seeing one’s self negatively from the point of view of the other (Darwin 1872; Cooley 1922).

However, patients showed two different, seemingly opposite responses in the shame context. In one, the patient seemed to be suffering psychological pain, but failed to identify it as shame. Lewis called this form overt, undifferentiated shame. In a second kind of response, the patient seemed not to be in pain, revealing an emotional response only by rapid, obsessional speech on topics that seemed slightly removed from the dialogue. Lewis called this second response bypassed shame. Identifying or calling shame by its right name seems to be an important aspect of understanding and managing it.

3. Finally, Lewis noted that there was an affinity between shame and anger. She found that anger markers in the patient’s speech were always preceded by shame markers. Apparently one way of hiding shame is to become angry. This finding has implications for our understanding of affects like resentment and guilt, which will be discussed below.
Lynd, Lewis, Tomkins, Retzinger, and Scheff defined shame socially and broadly as all affects that arise from threats to the bond. They also compared the modern narrow treatment of shame to the broad usage in traditional societies. However, none of these researchers explored the history of shame, how its meaning has changed in the transition from traditional to modern societies. Although they report the repression of shame in modern societies, they do not explain how it has come to be. This is exactly the ground covered by Elias’s major study, the transition from the time of the Middle Ages to the beginning of modern societies in the 19th century.

Elias’s History of Shame
Elias’s analysis of the "civilizing process" (1978, 1982) shows how shame went underground in modern societies. He traces changes in the development of personality in the onset of modern civilization. Like Weber, Elias gives prominence to the development of rationality. Unlike Weber, however, he gives equal prominence to changes in the threshold of shame: "No less characteristic of a civilizing process than `rationalization' is the peculiar molding of the drive economy that we call `shame' and `repugnance' or `embarrassment' " (1982: 292).

Using excerpts from advice manuals in five languages from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, Elias outlined a theory of modernity. By examining advice concerning etiquette, especially table manners, body functions, sexuality, and anger, he suggested that a key aspect of modernity involves shame.

Although Elias's language differs from mine, his analysis parallels it. His central thesis is closely related: decreasing shame thresholds at the time of the breakup of rural communities, and decreasing acknowledgment of shame, have had powerful consequences on levels of awareness and self-control. The following excerpt gives the flavor of Elias's study. He first presents an excerpt from a nineteenth-century work, The Education of Girls (von Raumer 1857) that advises mothers how to answer the sexual questions their daughters ask:
Children should be left for as long as is at all possible in the belief that an angel brings the mother her little children. This legend, customary in some regions, is far better than the story of the stork common elsewhere. Children, if they really grow up under their mother's eyes, will seldom ask forward questions on this point . . . not even if the mother is prevented by a childbirth from having them about her.... If girls should later ask how little children really come into the world, they should be told that the good Lord gives the mother her child, who has a guardian angel in heaven who certainly played an invisible part in bringing us this great joy. "You do not need to know nor could you understand how God gives children." Girls must be satisfied with such answers in a hundred cases, and it is the mother's task to occupy her daughters' thoughts so incessantly with the good and beautiful that they are left no time to brood on such matters.... A mother . . . ought only once to say seriously: "It would not be good for you to know such a thing, and you should take care not to listen to anything said about it." A truly well brought-up girl will from then on feel shame at hearing things of this kind spoken of. (1978:180)

Elias first interprets the repression of sexuality in terms of unacknowledged shame:
In the civilizing process, sexuality too is increasingly removed behind the scenes of social life and enclosed in a particular enclave, the nuclear family.  Likewise, the relations between the sexes are isolated, placed behind walls in consciousness. An aura of embarrassment, the expression of a sociogenetic fear, surrounds this sphere of life. Even among adults it is referred to officially only with caution and circumlocutions. And with children, particularly girls, such things are, as far as possible, not referred to at all. Von Raumer gives no reason why one ought not to speak of them with children.  He could have said it is desirable to preserve the spiritual purity of girls for as long as possible. But even this reason is only another expression of how far the gradual submergence of these impulses in shame and embarrassment has advanced by this time. (1978:180)

Elias raises a host of significant questions about this excerpt, concerning its motivation and its effects.  His analysis goes to what I consider to be the central causal chain in modern civilization: denial of shame and of the threatened social bonds that both cause and reflect that denial.  I concur with Elias's analysis of the causal process in repression, the arousal of shame and the denial of this arousal:
Considered rationally, the problem confronting him [von Raumer] seems unsolved, and what he says appears contradictory. He does not explain how and when the young girl should be made to understand what is happening and will happen to her. The primary concern is the necessity of instilling "modesty" (i.e., feelings of shame, fear, embarrassment, and guilt) or, more precisely, behavior conforming to the social standard. And one feels how infinitely difficult it is for the educator himself to overcome the resistance of the shame and embarrassment which surround this sphere for him. (1978:181)

Elias's study suggests a way of understanding the social transmission of the taboo on shame and the social bond.  The adult, the author von Raumer, in this case, is not only ashamed of sex, he is ashamed of being ashamed, in accordance with Kaufman’s analysis of taboo. The nineteenth-century reader, in turn, probably reacted in a similar way: being ashamed, and being ashamed of being ashamed, and being ashamed of causing further shame in the daughter. Von Raumer's advice was part of a social system in which attempts at civilized delicacy resulted and continue to result in an endless chain reaction of unacknowledged shame. The chain reaction is both within persons and between them, a "triple spiral" (Scheff 1990).
Elias understood the significance of the denial of shame: shame goes underground, leading to behavior that is outside of awareness:
Neither rational motives nor practical reasons primarily determine this attitude, but rather the shame (scham) of adults themselves, which has become compulsive. It is the social prohibitions and resistances within themselves, their own superego, that makes them keep silent. (1978:181; emphasis added)
  Like many other passages, this one points not only to a taboo on shame, but at the actual mechanisms by which it is transmitted and maintained.
As indicated earlier, the translator of TCP from German into English made what I consider to be a gross mistake.  He translated the word that Elias used, scham, into the word shame. Although technically correct, it is an error in terms of emotional content. Perhaps if he had used the word embarrassment instead of shame, the reception of the book in the US might have been less tepid.  Although one of the great landmarks of social science research in England and Europe, the book is still little known in the US.

Why was TCP well received in England?  Because of the long hiatus between the original publication in German in 1939 and its first translation into English in 1987, the scholars in England who became followers of Elias had read TCP only in German. Knowing German, they were able to accept Elias’s emphasis on scham.

Writing about the early reviews of TCP in Europe, Goudsblom (1977) noted that many of them were especially appreciative of the first part, the history of manners. Since French and Dutch each have a word that is the exact equivalent of “scham”, perhaps they were able to take his unusual emphasis on shame in stride. If Elias had used the word schande (the German equivalent of the word shame in English), rather than scham, the book might have gotten a less enthusiastic reception in Europe, paralleling its reception in the US.

In terms of taboo, it should also be noted that many years passed before reviewers or users of TCP referred to the central role of shame in Elias’s study of manners. Goudsblom didn’t note it in his 1977 review, nor did any of the reviewers cited by Goudsblom. The only researcher who made use of Elias’s shame work was Sennett, who cited Elias in his own chapter on the way managers use shame to control workers (Sennett 1980).  However, no reviewers or anyone else took note of that chapter. Perhaps both Sennett and Elias noted the lack of response, since neither one ever wrote directly about shame again. The taboo on shame is maintained through silence, first by the readers of the books, then by the authors themselves. This taboo extends even into psychoanalysis and social psychology, disciplines in which emotion is a central concern.

Shame in Psychoanalysis and Social Psychology
Most writing in psychology ignores the social component in shame. Vernacular conceptions of shame in English and the European languages have a powerful hold on scholarly and scientific discussions.  Even though Freud used the German term for everyday shame (scham), he still defined it narrowly, located within individuals. He assumed that -scham arose out of a disparity between one’s own ideals and one’s actual behavior.

Because he saw so little evidence of shame in himself and in his male colleagues, Freud was dismissive of shame as an adult emotion in modern societies. He considered guilt to be the moral emotion of adults, being acutely conscious of it in himself and his male circle. Seeing little shame in himself and his friends, he found it, in his earliest work (1895) in his patients, all of whom were women. Reflecting the ageism, sexism, and racism of his time, Freud seemed to think that shame was the emotion of children, women, and savages. Following Freud’s idea that guilt was the adult emotion in modern societies, the anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1946) proposed that traditional societies were shame cultures, modern societies, guilt cultures.  As will be discussed below, this conception is misleading in several important ways.

Although in his later work Freud ignored shame, it had an important role in his first book. In Studies on Hysteria (1895), Freud and Breuer stated early on (p. 40) that hysteria is caused by hidden affects, and named the emotion of shame (scham) as one of these affects. Near the end of the book, this idea is urged more strongly:
[The ideas that were being repressed] were all of a distressing nature, calculated to arouse the affects of shame, self-reproach and of psychical pain and the feeling of being harmed. (pp. 313)

Note that all of the affects mentioned can be considered to be shame derivatives, cognates, or a general name for emotional pain. Self-reproach is a specific shame cognate, the feeling of being harmed (as in rejection) somewhat broader, and finally, the quite abstract phrase “psychical pain”, which, like “hurt” or “emotional arousal” can be applied to any emotion. In this passage and several others, shame is given a central role in the causation of psychopathology.

The idea that it is shame that causes repression would give it the leading role in the causation of all mental illness, not just hysteria. Oddly, in one of his statements many years later, Freud declared that repression was the central motor of human development and emotional illness, but psychoanalysis knew very little about it. Apparently Freud had forgotten his earlier discovery that shame was the agent of repression.

With the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud (1905) permanently renounced his earlier formulation in favor of drive theory, especially the sexual drive. At this point, anxiety and guilt became the central emotions in psychoanalytic theory. Since 1905, shame has been ignored in orthodox formulations . Although psychoanalysts have made crucially important contributions to shame knowledge, these contributions helped make them marginal to mainstream psychoanalysis. Even in their own work, shame usually goes unnamed or undefined.

Alfred Adler, Abraham Kardiner, Karen Horney, and Erik Erickson provide examples of analyses that include or imply shame, yet fail to define it (Kardiner and Erickson) or even name it (Adler and Horney).  Adler’s formulation of the core position of prestige seeking in human behavior, and his concept of the inferiority complex, are clearly shame-based ideas. To make the search for prestige and honor a central human motive is to focus on the pride/shame axis, as Cooley did. Similarly, the concept of an inferiority complex can be seen as a formulation about chronic low self-esteem, i.e., chronic shame.

Yet Adler never used the concept of shame. His theory of personality was that children deprived of love at key periods in their development would become adults with either a drive for power or an inferiority complex. This theory can be restated succinctly in terms of a theory of shame and the social bond: children without the requisite secure bonds will likely become adults whose affects are predominately bypassed (drive for power) or overt shame (inferiority complex, as in Lewis 1971).
Like Adler, Horney (1950) didn’t name the emotion of shame. But her formulations implied it. Her theory of personality was based on what she called “the pride system.” Most of her propositions imply that pride and shame are the keys to understanding both neurotic and normal behavior. Her concept of the “vindictive personality” implies shame/anger sequences as the emotional basis for vengeful behavior.

Kardiner was an anthropologist who applied psychoanalytic ideas to small traditional cultures. One of his studies (1939) compared the role of shame in four traditional societies. Unlike Adler and Horney, he named the emotion of shame, and stated, like Freud and Breuer, that shame is the emotion of repression. Like Adler, he also gave prominence to prestige as a fundamental human motive. Going further than Adler or Freud, he thought shame was the principal component of the super-ego, rather than guilt.

Like Kardiner, Erikson also named shame, in his analysis of the relationship between shame and guilt (1950). In his discussion of these emotions, he proposed, contra Freud, that shame was the most fundamental emotion and that it had a vital role in child developmental. Like most theorists who discuss shame, neither Kardiner nor Erikson tried to define it.  The work on shame by these four analysts was not recognized by the psychoanalytic establishment. Both Adler and Horney were excluded for their deviationism. Although neither Kardiner nor Erikson were excluded, there was no response by analysts, even their followers, to their work on shame.

Although there has been a re-awakening of shame studies by current psychoanalysts, still only a small minority of analysts are involved. Even in this group, converting from drive theory to a social affect language is a struggle. The work of Lansky (1992; 1995) on shame preserves drive theory. Morrison (1989) has translated drive theoretic formulations into shame dynamics, trying to bridge the two worlds. Only Broucek (1991) both rebelled against drive theory and attempted a social formulation of shame.

The largest number of studies of embarrassment has occurred in experimental social psychology over the last twenty years. Sharkey (2001) lists almost 400 studies, most of which are experiments. Of those that consider the issue, all but one find embarrassment and shame to be different affects (e.g., Edelmann 1987; Miller and Tangney 1994; Lewis 1995; Tangney, Miller, Flicker, and Barlow 1996). Perhaps the key problem with these studies is that most of them use methods that rely on subject’s conscious classifications of affects. Since English-speaking subjects distinguish embarrassment from shame, that is what these studies find.

Keltner and Buswell (1997) mainly use facial expression to measure emotion, but conclude, like the studies above, that shame and embarrassment are distinct. They distinguish embarrassment from shame in two ways: 1. Difference in facial expression and 2. Source of the emotion. In terms of facial expression, they propose that embarrassment often involves a smile, where shame does not. However, that difference could be explained as involving only a difference in intensity. Their second difference: embarrassment is connected with breaking conventions, where shame is connected with moral lapses. Again, this could also be a matter only of intensity. Furthermore, as Sabini et al (2001) show, the difference between convention and morality, in actual situations, can be unclear.

Sabini et al., (2001) measured subject’s emotion categories, but interpret their results as failing to support the distinction between shame and embarrassment. They conclude that shame and embarrassment belong to “a single affect system” (p. 113). The do not name this system, but note that it is tied to what they call “breakdowns in self-presentation.” Since self-presentation inevitably involves others views’ of self, Sabini and his colleagues seem to be moving toward a conception of shame/embarrassment as a social affect.

Although they use subject’s emotion categories like most of the other experimental research on embarrassment, Sabini and his colleagues interpret their results in a way that contradicts the findings of the other studies. Why? A complete answer would involve a careful comparison of their methods and concepts to those of the earlier studies. But Sabini and his colleagues mention in passing an idea that might be the most crucial difference. They indicate “…we would distinguish what triggers an episode from the totality of the episode” (p. 113).

Sabini et al. come closer to viewing the totality of the episodes they studied than the researchers in the earlier experiments. Edelman, Miller, and Tangney, and Keltner and Buswell focus only on the experimental variables. Sabini et al consider these, but also others dimensions. Their study comes closest to what I call “part/whole analysis” (Scheff 1997). The philosopher Spinoza argued that human beings are so complex that we can begin to understand them only by taking into account the least parts (words and gestures) in relationship to the greatest wholes (concepts, theories, contexts, etc).

None of the experimental studies, moreover, explicitly consider the social dimensions of emotion. They fail to notice, for example, two social sources that are common to both shame and embarrassment. Most of one’s personal ideals are held in common with other members of one’s society. Personal ideals are largely social ideals. Secondly, and more subtly, the interior theatre of the self, in which both shame and embarrassment occur, is modeled on social interaction. One becomes ashamed by seeing one’s self in the eyes of others, whether real or imagined. If shame in its broad sense is a continuous presence in human conduct we would need a new definition, a theory, and a method, in order to study it.

Proposal for a New Concept: Bond Affect or Shame
Shame might be considered to be the master emotion because it has more functions than other emotions. First, shame is a key component of conscience, the moral sense: it signals moral transgression even without thoughts or words. Shame is our moral gyroscope.

 Secondly, shame arises in elemental situations of threat to a bond; it signals trouble in a relationship. Since an infant’s life is completely dependent on the bond with the caregivers, shame is as primitive and intense as fear. This idea subsumes the more usual one that shame arises when one feels one has failed to live up to one’s standards, since these standards are, for the most part, held in common with the significant others in one’s life.  The sense that one has failed to live up to one’s standards would usually also signal a threat to one’s social relationships.

Finally, shame plays a central role in regulating the expression, and indeed, the awareness of all of our other emotions. Anger, fear, grief, and love, for example, are not likely to be expressed outwardly to the degree that one is ashamed of them. One can be so ashamed of one’s emotions that they can be repressed completely. Although Freud later abandoned his finding, his discovery of shame (scham) as the agent of repression (Freud and Breuer 1897), discussed above, was not an error.

If shame in the broad sense is so central to understanding human conduct, it might be well to define it differentiate it from the narrow meaning in the vernacular. There are many words that are used as substitutes or cognates for the feeling that results from seeing one's self negatively in the eyes of the other, such as feeling self-conscious, rejected, unworthy, or inadequate. A first step toward a scientific definition is to use the term Shame as a class name for a large family of emotions and feelings that arise through seeing self negatively, if even only slightly negatively, through the eyes of others, or only anticipating such a reaction. This usage would therefore include all of Goffman’s work on embarrassment. The complete definition will follow below (p. 16).
A social definition is in conflict with vernacular usage, in which shame is defined narrowly, as disgrace shame.  But most Shame does not involve crisis or disgrace. It is sometimes available in the interior theatre of the imagination as discretion-shame, but more often, Shame occurs out of awareness. Lewis’s contribution to our knowledge of the emotional/relational world was that Shame, or its anticipation, is a continuing presence in most social interaction. Because he made embarrassment central to social interaction, Goffman had made the same point on theoretical grounds.

  Shame is indicated at different levels of intensity and duration by the terms embarrassment (weak and transient), shame, stronger and more durable, and humiliation, (powerful and of long duration). What these three terms have in common is that they all signal threat to the social bond. Many, many other terms are cognates or variants of Shame, each emphasizing one or the other aspects of the feeling or the situation. Self-consciousness, shyness, modesty, and conscience have already been mentioned in the discussion of discretion shame. Retzinger (1991; 1995) lists hundreds of such words.

Most of the words that reference social affect are codewords rather than cognates, because they have dual meanings. For example, the word “awkward” can mean physically clumsy, but it is also used as a codeword for embarrassment. The phrase “It was an awkward moment for me” is an indirect way of referring to embarrassment. It’s not me that is embarrassed (denial), but the moment that is awkward (projection). Helen Lewis (1971) showed that even in psychotherapy sessions, references to Shame were usually in code.

There is a parallel between the concept of Shame and usage in reference to other emotions. The class name anger, for example, includes irritation, annoyance, frustration, enraged, being pissed off, and many other words and phrases. As is the case with Shame, anger is the generic term for an elemental emotion class that includes many cognates. But since the word anger is not offensive, the class name can be direct.

In addition to being a class name for many social cognates and variants, Shame also combines with other emotions to form affects. Resentment and guilt may be the two most important examples. Resentment seems to be an affect of Shame and anger, with the anger pointed outwards. Insulted, one may mask Shame with anger by hostility. Guilt seems to have a similar make-up, but with the anger pointed back at self. One may address oneself angrily: “How could I treat my mother that way? She was only trying to help!”
To be sure, guilt serves a vital social function, leading one to make amends for one’s trespass. But at the same time, it often serves to mask one’s Shame, since it focuses on external behavior: one’s trespass, and the amends one is to make. Benedict’s (1946) idea that modern societies have a guilt culture is a gloss on the hidden relationship between guilt and shame. In the transition from traditional to modern societies, guilt arises in association with individualism. It does not so much replace Shame as serve as one of its many masks.  Shame doesn’t disappear, it goes underground. Elias traced this process in his study of the history of manners, as already indicated.

Conceptual Definition: Drawing upon the work of the pioneers reviewed here, I define Shame as the large family of emotions that includes many cognates and variants, most notably embarrassment, guilt, humiliation and related feelings such as shyness that originate in threats to the social bond.  This definition integrates self (emotional reactions) and society (the social bond).
Operational Definitions: If one postulates that Shame is generated by a threat to the bond, no matter how slight, then a wide rage of cognates and variants follow: not only embarrassment, shyness, and modesty, but also feelings of rejection or failure, and heightened self-consciousness of any kind. A long list of gestures and codewords that can be used as indicators of shame has been provided by Retzinger (1991; 1995). A second operational definition is available from Louis Gottschalk, a professor of Psychiatry at UCI. His software deals with verbal texts only, but has been validated in 26 languages (Gottschalk 1995).

Especially important for social control is a positive variant, a sense of shame. That is, Shame figures in most social interaction because members may only occasionally feel shame, but they are constantly anticipating it, as Goffman implied. Goffman’s treatment continually points to the slightness of threats to the bond that lead to anticipation of embarrassment. As Darwin (1872) noted, the discrepancy can even be in the positive direction; too much deference can generate the embarrassment of heightened self-consciousness. This fact points to the intersubjective nature of the cause of shame. Receiving more deference than we expect is a threat to our sense of being connected to the other, of understanding them as they understand us. Even praise can be experienced as lack of attunement.

If, as proposed here, Shame were a result of threat to the bond, Shame would be the most social of the basic emotions. Fear is a signal of danger to the body, anger a signal of frustration, and so on. The sources of fear and anger, unlike shame, are not uniquely social. Grief also has a social origin, since it signals the loss of a bond. But bond loss is not a frequent event.  Shame on the other hand, since it involves even a slight threat to the bond, is present or anticipated in virtually all social interaction.  Shame is the emotion that Durkheim could have named as the social emotion, had he named a specific emotion.
Given our extraordinary sensitivity to even minute differences between the deference we get and what we expect, EVERY social situation is rife with Shame, either actual or anticipated.  The ubiquity of Shame in social life obtains not only between individuals but also between groups. Not only duels, but also wars are usually fought over perceived slights to our individual or collective sense of self (Scheff 1994).

A question arises from my description of the zigzag progress of shame studies described above. What gives rise to the slipperiness of the concept of shame? Why did Elias, Sennett, Goffman and others make fundamental contributions to Shame knowledge, yet fail to explicitly name and define the emotion they studied as shame, or ignore it in their later work? Why did Mead and Dewey ignore the obvious importance of shame in Cooley? Why did Brown and Levinson recognize the importance of Goffman’s concept of face as the avoidance of embarrassment, but fail to utilize it? My description of the history of shame studies by psychoanalysts suggests similar questions, particularly Freud’s early discovery of shame and his later disavowal.
My explanation derives from Elias’s idea of the advance of the shame threshold, and Lewis’s work on unacknowledged shame. Elias's response to his data led him to an analysis that was too advanced for his audience. In Western societies, as Elias pointed out, the threshold for shame has been decreasing for hundreds of years, but at the same time awareness of this emotion has been declining. As his own analysis could have predicted, in our era the level of awareness of   Shame is so low that only those trained to detect unacknowledged shame could understand the point that Elias was making. Because Retzinger and I were guided by Lewis's (1971) work, we were responsive to Elias's shame analysis.

The development of a concept of Shame could be crucially important for research on emotion. It would appear that subjects’ testimony about shame states, and indeed the presence or absence of any other emotion, may not be valid. Perhaps most emotional states are disavowed or exaggerated. Following, Lewis, it would appear that most Shame states are not experienced in consciousness, but are either unconscious or misnamed (bypassed or overt, undifferentiated shame, in Lewis’s (1971) terminology). For this reason studies that rely on testimony of subjects, rather than analysis of their behavior and their discourse, are apt to leave out shame. It is also not clear that subject’s reports of their own Shame and that of others are accurate. Studies are needed to test the validity of subjective reports of shame.

To continue to develop, the sociology and psychology of emotions should follow up the leads offered by the authors reviewed here. We might start by testing Elias’s hypothesis on collective shame: it is increasing in modern societies, but at the same time awareness of shame is decreasing. Another hypothesis, implied by Sennett and Cobb, is that members of the working and lower classes are shamed by their status.

One direction that a sociology of emotions might take concerns the dynamics of racial, gender, ethnic, and class relationships. In her chapter "Honor and Shame", Howard (1995) proposes that male domination and racism increase the liklihood that women and blacks will experience shame. She suggests that they are dishonored, that their status is consistently derogated. To coordinate their actions in a white male dominated society, women and blacks must take the role of white males, which leads to seeing themselves as they are seen. She supports this idea by pointing to the amount of "self-mutilation" that women and blacks undergo in attempting to fit themselves into the male or white ideal. She argues that women’s sustained attempts to be slender and have small waists and feet, to the point of self-starvation, suggest Shame in these women. Similarly, she proposes that hair straightening and the high status of light skin among blacks has the same implication.

Howard’s analysis of shame and honor in race and gender relations is suggestive, but is only a first step. If her formulation is accurate, it would mean that there is an emotional/relational structure that sustains the domination of white middle class males, in addition to legal, political and economic causes. In order to test this idea, however, Shame would need to be investigated so that its presence or absence in women, blacks and working class men could be documented. Retzinger’s theory of conflict (Retzinger 1991) and my application of it to collective conflict (Scheff 1994) suggest that protracted and intense hatred, resentment, and envy are all products of unacknowledged shame. Research on gender, race, ethnic and class emotional tensions and alienation could be inspired by this idea .

In process are two studies that apply the broad concept of shame to empirical research.  The first is on the role of Shame in male violence (Scheff 2002). The second, co-authored with David Fearon, outlines a theory of self-esteem (Scheff and Fearon 2002). In the first, I propose three conditions under which Shame leads to violence: the extents to which individuals are isolated, obsessed, and have completely repressed shame.  To illustrate the theory, I show how well these conditions are indicated in the details of Hitler’s writings and biographies. In the second study, Fearon and I propose that Shame and pride management is the most elementary component of self-esteem.  The theory is illustrated by excerpts from interviews with subjects who took a standard self-esteem test. When asked to elaborate on their answers to the test items, almost all of their responses involved Shame and its management.

As indicated at the beginning of this article, the classic sociologists believed that emotions are crucially involved in the structure and change of whole societies. The authors reviewed here suggest that Shame is the premier social emotion. Lynd’s work, particularly, suggests how acknowledgement of Shame can strengthen bonds, and by implication, lack of acknowledgment can create alienation. Lewis’s work further and in much more detail suggests how shame/anger loops can create perpetual hostility and alienation. Acknowledged shame, it seems, could be the glue that holds relationships and societies together, and unacknowledged Shame the force that blows them apart. Since we are now in a position to clearly define Shame as a working concept, perhaps the time has come to begin systematic empirical studies of its effects on social systems.

It may be that the taboo on shame, defined narrowly, is a way of upholding the status quo in the emotional/relational world. This usage also influences the direction and results of research. The effect on results is subtle, because it occurs covertly, as a result of taken-for-granted classifications. These classification schemes, when generated by taboo, have had strong effects on research and scholarship.

Several examples were given. First, it was suggested that Cooley’s explicit use of the words shame and pride led readers to ignore the implications of his idea of the looking glass self for many years. Goffman’s avoidance of shame in favor of embarrassment helped insure his wide readership, and the choice of the word shame rather than embarrassment in the translation of Elias’s magnum opus into English may have accounted, at least in part, for its tepid reception in the US.
Although purportedly following the lead of Tomkins’s studies of emotion, Ekman et al (1972) omitted shame from his studies of facial expression of basic emotions. Finally, the division of Shame into shame and embarrassment in studies in experimental social psychology may be an artifact of classifications of affect words by the researchers and their subjects.

The most significant support for the idea of the taboo on shame is the fact that all but one of the major contributors to Shame knowledge abandoned this direction, with the exception of Lewis. In 1905, Freud renounced the contribution he and Breuer made to Shame knowledge in their Studies of Hysteria. After his first book, The Civilizing Process (1939) focused on changes in the shame threshold, Elias never again returned to his findings. Nor did Sennett continue with his investigation of shame after devoting a chapter to it in his 1980 book. Goffman’s early work was focused on embarrassment, but beginning with Frame Analysis, he moved away from emotions entirely. Tomkin’s 1963 volume devoted much more space to shame than any other emotion, but his subsequent work seldom mentioned it.

It seems very likely that one of the main reasons for these changes in direction were that the parts of their work that dealt with shame got virtually no response. Since everyone else acted as if shame didn’t exist, Freud, Elias, Sennett, Goffman, and Tomkins followed suit.

The one exception to this pattern was Helen Lewis. She was the boldest and most focused on shame of all the major contributors. After her 1971 book she continued to publish studies of shame for the rest of her life (She died in 1987). But her persistence apparently was not due to positive responses the book received. In private correspondence in 1986 she told me that although her book was occasionally cited, no one seemed to have read it. The response to the key shame studies in this century has been almost non-existent, as predicted by the hypothesis of taboo.

Can the taboo be overcome by taking a new direction in conceptualized shame? The concept of Shame renews and integrates the work of Freud, Elias, Lynd, Goffman, Lewis, Tomkins, and many others. For the social science of emotions, this concept could correct for the individualist bias in Western societies, making the invisible (the web of social relationships) visible. Perhaps Shame can help lead the way toward further advances in the study of the emotional/relational world by integrating social and psychological approaches.

To see the thesis of this article in the large, it is necessary to ask, why is shame defined so narrowly in the vernacular usage of modern societies? In this regard, it is helpful to bring in the other master emotion, love, since it is defined so broadly in the vernacular that it is almost meaningless. To the extent that alienation exists in a society rather than solidarity, its emotion words, especially love and shame, will be defined in a way that hide alienation. Defining shame very narrowly, and love very broadly, helps to mask the otherwise shocking lack of community and solidarity in the modern world. The extraordinary breadth of the meaning of love, and a narrow conceptual definition that might be helpful in social science, will be the subject of a future article.


1.  Parts of this section and sections 2, 3, and 5 modify and expand the thesis of  Scheff 2000.

2. For the Maori case, see Metge (1986). The Maori word for shame is the exact equivalent of bond affect, as it will be discussed here.

3.  A seeming exception to the taboo on mentioning shame is the frequently used expression “What a shame!” However, this usage isn’t an exception, since it is a formalism, like “How do you do?” Just as the latter expression is not an actual inquiry, but a formality, so is the expression “What a shame!” It is not a real reference to shame since exactly the same meaning can be expressed as “What a pity!”

4.  Apparently Ekman (1998, p. 38) has changed his mind: “‘I have not published my findings on shame [that it is universal], but they are very well documented in my work among the South Fore of Papua New Guinea [1967-68].” One wonders why these findings didn’t keep him from excluding shame from the facial emotion test he and Friesen  (1972) developed, and of course, why it took him 30 years to mention them.

5.  Shame (scham) is also mentioned repeatedly in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). But by this time shame has lost the pre-eminence that Freud had given it in 1895. Now it is merely one of the forces that inhibit sexuality, along with “disgust and morality.”

6. My chapter in Phillips, McKinnon, and Scheff, (Editors, 2002) involves a textual analysis of the dialogue of working class men in Sennett and Cobb (1973), and working class high school boys in Willis (1977). I show that shame indicators are higher in the dialogue of the working class men than in the authorial text, and for the working class boys, both shame and anger indicators are higher.

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Willis, Paul.  1977. Learning to Labor. New York: Columbia University Press.


Table 1     Self/Other Relationship in Shame

Self (unable)  Other (able)
1. Object of scorn, contempt, ridicule;
    Reduced little.
1. The source of scorn, contempt, ridicule
2. Paralyzed; helpless; passive  2. Laughing, ridiculing; powerful; Active
3. Assailed by noxious stimuli: rage
    Tears; blushing; fluster; blank
3. Appears intact 
4. Feels childish  4. Appears adult; going away; Abandoning
5. Focal in awareness; being looked at; 
5. Also focal in awareness; looking at
6. Functions poorly as an agent or 
perceiver; Divided between imaging 
self and the other; Boundaries are 
permeable; vicarious experience of self and other
6. Appears intact