Honour, Shame and the Greek Value System

Abstract:¬†Mediterranean value-systems have been presented as classifications of’ honour’ and ‘shame’. Apart from the issue of whether ‘the Mediterranean’ necessarily or usefully constitutes a discrete cultural zone, ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ are inefficient glosses on a wide variety of indigenous terminological systems. Fresh ethnographic evidence from two rural Greek communities illustrates two necessary procedures: (a) to examine each terminological system as an independent whole in its local setting; (b) to elucidate the relationships between such systems within each linguistic area before proceeding to wider cross-cultural comparisons. The various taxonomic systems examined do nevertheless exhibit a common concern, not simply with absolute moral or economic criteria for social evaluation, but with the ability to live up to already existing expectations. This general characteristic, however, is by no means exclusively Mediterranean.

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