4 Jan 2011
"The emotion of shame is the primary or ultimate cause of all violence... The different forms of violence, whether toward individuals or entire populations, are motivated (caused) by shame. (pp. 110-111)."
Sorry: I'm not buying it. Unless you want to go into an enormously implausible chain of a priori rationalisation to connect everything to "shame" I think it trivially easy to think of counter-examples, whether from the modern world or a presumed pre-historic "state of nature".
In the first case ("the modern world") I can think of, say, killing a witness in order to avoid being caught for a crime. Not out of shame at being thought a criminal (plenty of criminals are known as such by all their associates) but for the purely instrumental purpose of avoiding gaol. In the second case "the pre-historic state of nature", Ug hitting Og over the head so he can eat Og's food seems pretty straightforward, presuming food to be in short supply. No shame one way or the other: just finding it easier to eat the other guy's food than to go catch or collect your own (especially if Ug and Og are from tribes not known to each other).
And those just from 30 seconds of reflection. I could probably manage many further examples with a little more thought.
Perhaps I'm just allergic to use of the universal quantifier postulating a single cause for ALL violence. Violence seems pretty complicated to me, so I genuinely doubt a single, simple, universal cause.
12 Jan 2011
Good shot, Mike F.! But if you look further into Gilligan's book, his comment is not so off the wall as it seems.
His idea of violence excludes some of your examples. He means aggression other than self-defense.
And shame needs to be thought of much more broadly, as it is in other languages: not just shame, embarrassment, humiliation, but also modesty is based on shame. Shame is very basic to human affairs, but it is carefully hidden. E.g., â€œIt was an awkward moment for me.â€�
Just as English defines love much too broadly, to hide alienation (infatuation, Women Who Love Too Much, blind patriotism, etc.), it defines shame narrowly (intense disgrace) to exclude most of social and psychological life, again in order to hide alienation (disconnection).
Like other mammals, humans are extremely inhibited about harming their fellow creatures. It seems to take humiliation/ revenge motives to get them to override this inhibition.