“The Shame of Abu Ghraib”

  • Limon J
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To understand the shame of Abu Ghraib, understand that America is a sophisticated shame culture. I do not mean that it is a shame culture that is otherwise sophisticated, for example, scientifically or technologically. I mean that it is sophisticated in its shame, in its ramifications of it. America is, in one sense, inevitably a shame culture; following BernardWilliams, I do not believe that shame can be divided absolutely from guilt.1 Guilt is a kind of purified shame—shame entirely in the realm of ethics, where cul- pability can be, in principle, cleanly assigned. But guilt cannot do what it pretends to do: transcend all societies. The ideal subject of a guilt culture is without individual moral character so as to be perfectly absorbed in a mo- rality without borders; no such subject or morality exists. America, how- ever, is supposed to be a guilt culture, and the supposition matters.

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  • John Limon

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