Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science (POLS)

First Advisor

John M. Parrish, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Andrew T. Dilts, Ph.D.


This paper answers the question—can citizens be shamed in a manner that is morally justifiable—by forwarding a theory of just shaming. Shaming has a divisive history in political theory. The volumes of work on both sides seems to point at a moral dilemma: shame looks to be a helpful social practice, yet it engenders unignorable negative consequences. In this paper, however, I argue that shaming in politics must be analyzed more in terms of when and how shaming is morally permissible. Shaming, employed in moments of citizen vice only, has to potential to reform citizen conduct. Furthermore, approaching shaming as more of a dialogue than a punishment can make citizens more amenable to change. Like with “just war” and other non-ideal theories, this paper accepts that politics may permit practices that are normally considered immoral—like shaming—in the pursuit of justice. From here, Eric Beerbohm’s citizen ethics and Iris Marion Young’s “five faces” typology help construct the norm that just shaming will utilize: citizen excellence, or the combatting social oppression actively. Employing this norm, I establish two sets of questions (inspired by just war theory) that will constitute the framework of just shaming. The first, jus ad shaming, asks under what circumstances can citizens be shamed. The second, jus in shaming, asks how someone must act when shaming citizens. From these questions, I construct three conditions—the complicity, activation, and mesomensch conditions—and two guidelines—intent and reciprocity—that delineate how just shaming must be conducted.