Shame, Guilt, and Punishment

Philipp Wüschner


Drawing on Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and on his lecture on the Punitive Societies as well as on affect theories, this text tries to analyze a surprising return to shame as a paradigm for punishment. In this context, shame and guilt are both seen not so much as real emotions occurring within the soul of a subject, but as dispositives or affective arrangements that seek different ways to regulate and modulate the feelings of justice and injustice within a society. Excessive shaming, which does not fit well in Foucault’s narrative of a development towards more subtle forms of punishment, will be understood as a (somewhat problematic) form of resistance against the subtleties of control. The text discusses this using the example of Electronic Monitoring and its history as a form of making shame invisible, hiding it as micro-political shame in an economy of guilt. Against this economy, excessive shame as punishment forms an aneconomic force that sets out to reset the rules of community and identity.


Theories of punishment; shaming; shame and guilt; affective economies; electronic monitoring and control

Full Text:



Agamben, Giorgio. 1995. Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, Giorgio 2009. What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Ahmed, Sarah. 2004. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge

Ahmed, Sarah 2004. Affective Economies", Social Text 79 (22, 2): 117-139.

Benedict, Ruth 1947. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Patterns of Japanese Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Blackman, Lisa. 2012. Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation. London: Sage.

Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, Shame, and Reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Book, Aaron S. 1999. "Shame on You: An Analysis of Modern Shame Punishment as an 'Alternative to Incarceration'", William and Mary Law Review 40, 653-686.

Brooks, Thom. 2008. "Shame on You, Shame on Me? Nussbaum on Shame-Punishment", in: Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (4), 322–334.

Burrel, William and Robert Gable. 2008. "From B. F. Skinner to Spiderman to Martha Stewart: The Past, Present and Future of Electronic Monitoring of Offenders", in Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 46:3-4: 101-118.

Clough, Patricia T. and Jean Halley, eds. 2007. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham: Duke University Press.

Cooley, Charles. 1922. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner's.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Foucault. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. "Postscript on Control Societies", in Deleuze, Negotiations. New York: Columbia University Press, 177-182.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1986. Kafka. Toward a Minor Literature. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 2004. A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2004

Derrida, Jacques. 1992. Given Time I: Counterfeit Money. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and Punish. New York: Random House.

Foucault, Michel. 2015. On the Punitive Society. Lectures at the Collège de France 1972–1973. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. "The Confession of the Flesh" (1977), in Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings, ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 194–228.

Foucault, Michel and Gilles Deleuze. 1977. "Intellectuals and Power", in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 205–217.

Gagarin, Michael and David Cohen, eds. 2005. Ancient Greek Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Garland, David. 2001. The Culture of Control. Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Isensee, Matthias and Paul Kirchhoff. 1987. Handbuch des Staatsrechts der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Band II: Verfassungsstaat. Karlsruhe: Müller.

Goffman, Erving.1967. Interaction Ritual. New York: Avon.

Heller, Agnes. 1985. "The Power of Shame", in: The Power of Shame: A rational Perspective. London: Routledge, 1–56.

Jacquet, Jennifer. 2015. Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool. New York: Pantheon.

Kahan, Dan. 1996. "What Do Alternative Sanctions Mean?", in Faculty Scholarship Series 114: 591–653.

Kozin, Alexander and Hilge Landweer et al. 2015. A phenomenological ethnography of shame in the context of German criminal law", in Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication 6:1, 57–75.

Landweer, Hilge.1999. Scham und Macht. Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Sozialität eines Gefühls. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Lewis, Helen. 1971. "Shame and Guilt in Neurosis", in: Psychoanalytic Review 58.3: 419-438.

Lewin, Kurt. 1936. Principles of Topological Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Massaro, Toni. 1999. Show (Some) Emotions", in Susan A. Bandes, ed. The Passions of Law. New York/London: NYU Press, 80–122.

Mead, Margaret. 1937. Cooperation and Competition among primitive Peoples, New York and London: McGraw-Hill.

Murphy, Jeffrie G. 2012. Punishment And The Moral Emotions. Essays in Law, Morality, and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1994. On the Genealogy of Morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nellis, Mike. 2015. Standards and Ethics in Electronic Monitoring. The Handbook for professionals responsible for the establishment and the use of Electronic Monitoring. Council of Europe.

Nussbaum, Martha. 2004. Hiding from Humanity. Disgust, Shame, and the Law. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Protevi, John. 2009. Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Reitz, John. 1999. "Political Economy and Abstract Review in Germany, France and the United States", in: Sally Jenney, William Reisinger John Reitz, eds., Constitutional Dialogues in Comparative Perspective. New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 62–88.

Rubinstein, Lene. 2005. "Differentiated Rhetorical Strategies in the Athenian Courts", in: The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Law, ed. Michael Gagarin and David Cohen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 129-145.

Scheff, Thomas. 1988. Shame and Conformity: The Deference-Emotion System", in: American Sociological Review 53.3, 395–406.

Sherman, Nancy. 2014. "Self-Empathy and Moral Repair", in: Sabine Roeser and Cain Todd, eds., Emotion and Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 183–198.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2014. Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions. London: Routledge.

Slaby, Jan and Philipp Wüschner. 2014. "Emotion and Agency" in: Sabine Roeser and Cain Todd, eds., Emotion and Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 212–228.

Seyfert, Robert. 2012. "Beyond Personal Feelings and Collective Emotions: Toward a Theory of Social Affect", Theory, Culture & Society 29 (6), 27-46.

Stern, Klaus. 1982. Das Staatsrecht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Munich: Beck.

Stocker, Michael. 2007. "Shame, Guilt, and Pathological Guilt", in Alan Thomas (ed.), Bernard Williams. Contemporary Philosophy in Focus. New York: Cambridge University Press, 135–153.

Williams, Bernard. 1993. Shame and Necessity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wüschner, Philipp. 2017. "Scham – Schuld – Strafe. Zur Frage nach der Legitimität von Schamstrafen", in: Hilge Landweer, Fabian Bernhard eds., Recht und Emotion II.

The Economist. 2016. 'Counting Every Moment', The Economist, 3 March 2012, (20. Dec. 2016).


visitors since Feb 2009. Hosted by CBS Library