In cultural anthropology
, a shame society
is the concept that, in a given society, the primary device for gaining control over children and maintaining control over adults is the inculcation of shame
and the complementary threat of ostracism
. A shame society is contrasted with a guilt society
in which control is maintained by creating and continually reinforcing the feeling of guilt (and the expectation of punishment now or in the hereafter
) for certain condemned behaviors.
The society of traditional Japan
was long held to be a good example of one in which shame is the primary agent of social control
. The first book to cogently explain the workings of the Japanese society for the Western reader was The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
This book was produced under less than ideal circumstances since it was written during the early years of World War II
in an attempt to understand the people who had become such a powerful enemy of the West. Under the conditions of war it was impossible to do field research
Nevertheless, depending on the study of members of that culture who were available for interview and study in the West, namely war prisoners at detention centers, as well as literary and other such records pertaining to cultural features, American anthropologist
and folklorist Ruth Benedict
drew what some regard as a clear picture of the basic workings of Japanese society. Her study has been challenged and is not relied upon by anthropologists of Japan... Read More