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Shame and guilt: Sociology as a poietic system
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2000 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation had a clear and simple task: to define what shame is. This necessarily entailed clarifying the distinction between shame and its main modem counterpart, guilt. Insofar as shame and guilt belong to two different worlds, one modem and the other pre-modern, as well as to two different social realms within the modern world itself, the investigation encountered two majorobstacles: 1) the methodological problem created by the observation of the difference between the modem and the non-modem social worlds known as the "paradox of observation" and 2) the lack of a sufficiently complex theoretical framework capable of explaining the evolution of the social world as a transition from shame-culture to guilt-culture.

The resolution of the first obstacle resides in the articulation of the particular scientific position of sociology as a modem science that neither shares the observation position of philosophy, nor should be perplexed by philosophical problems. The claim here is that the paradox of observationwas formulated in sociological terms only in order to facilitate sociology's self-reflection, in which she can reveal herself as a paradoxical science by virtue of having as much in common with science as with non-science (poetry) and being as much a science of the past (like history) as she is the science of the present (like philosophy).

In order to tackle the second problem, this work provides an elaboration of the macrosociological theory that presents modem society as an autopoietic system such that this theory becomes capable of serving as a theory of social evolution as well. This entails articulating one of its undeveloped or suppressed aspects, namely, the poietic system, and granting it an independent systems status. The main features of Tönnies' Gemeinschaft or Arendt's private realm are attributed to this latter type of system. As the study concludes, not only are poietic and the autopoietic systems characterized by different languages, different types of socialization processes, and correspondingly different type of social agents, they are also responsible for constructing different types of social selves. Moreover, these two differently constructed social realities have different moral codes in which shame and guilt serve as supreme moral sanctions.

Even though shame may seem to be an old-fashioned feeling, it cannot simply be considered as some type of "injurious variation" that vanishes with the completion of the process of social modernization, where all its of social functions are taken over by the feeling of guilt. This is so because shame belongs to the realm that is the source of all creativity and all humanity. Guilt is as incapable of carrying by itself the entire burden of being a moral guardian in the modem world as autopoiesis is impossible without poiesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2000. , 358 p.
Keyword [en]
Sociology, shame, guilt, poietic and autopoietic systems, social selves, language, sociology, society, community, civilization
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-72ISBN: 91-506-1409-6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-72DiVA: diva2:169063
Public defence
2000-05-24, universitetets lärosal IX, Uppsala universitet, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2000-05-03 Created: 2000-05-03 Last updated: 2010-03-28Bibliographically approved

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Misheva, Vessela
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