Prudes, Perverts, and Tyrants – Plato and the Contemporary Politics of Shame

Here we present the ‘Abstract’ of the corresponding paper by Christina Tarnopolsky.

In certain contemporary theories of the politics of shame, shame is considered a pernicious emotion that we need to avoid in, or a salutary emotion that serves as an infallible guide to, democratic deliberation. The author argues that both positions arise out of an inadequate notion of the structure of shame and an oversimplistic opposition between shame and shamelessness. Plato’s dialogue, the Gorgias, actually helps to address these problems because it supplies a deeper understanding of the place of shame in democratic politics in ways that address our contemporary dilemmas. It does this first, by avoiding the simple opposition between shame and shamelessness and secondly, by articulating three different kinds of “politics of shame” that can characterize democratic deliberations. Finally, Plato’s treatment of shame extends upon contemporary ethical and psychoanalytic notions of shame in ways that are directly relevant to the our contemporary political situation.



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