In view of the controversies around whether reason (rationality when applied to particular cases) is universal in the human makeup, it is remarkable that on occasions when shame does recieve attention its universality is not questioned. That seems paradoxical. If I feel a sense of shame, as Heller and Schneidermann point out, this will connect with my particular community, for instance in feeling that I have not met their expectations of me.

Reason - or rationality - will not necessarily have that kind of link; it is its own standard.

Sometimes shame and rationality work together, as with the currently touted practice of 'naming and shaming' businesses involved in misconduct, such as banks mis-selling payment protection insurance. But when broader arguments about environmental costs, consumption, or economic growth come into play we can find rationality enabling us to assess what we need and have to do in a way that shame cannot. Instead, a sense of shame leads us into making comparisons with the position or attainments of others (especially avoiding unfavourable comparison). Notably, excessive salaries of top executives turn out often to be a matter of companies maintaining their standing rather than anyone actually needing the money for themselves. In this sort of way, and through 'conspicuous consumption' and competition between countries, shame encourages economic growth (and therefore capital accumulation) without limit. Perhaps that feature indicates that it is the real universal.

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