Looking for Something in Common: Augustine, Rousseau, Arendt, and the Politics of Shame

Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick (2001)

What role does shame play in constituting common values, language, and principles? How can a historical re-reading of the role shame plays in central texts in the history of Western political thought inform the re-emerging discussion about shame and shamelessness witnessed in the United States today? This dissertation examines how shame functions to articulate, secure, and cohere an otherwise missing sense of commonality in the works of Saint Augustine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Hannah Arendt. Shame performs this work through its invocation of shame as bodily order that must be managed in order to secure public stability and common values. It concludes that even if democratic theory and practice ought not---indeed, cannot---dispense with shame, it should not invoke shame as its linchpin. The deployment of shame, as the texts of Augustine, Rousseau, and Arendt show, often serves to displace political action and political differences, which are the sine qua non of democracy itself
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