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The Strange Persistence of Guilt

The prophets of modernity assumed that the waning of Christian faith would produce a parallel waning in the experience of guilt and shame among properly acclimatized moderns. But that has not been the case. If anything, we feel more guilt about more things than ever before, and with a guilt that has proven to be unassuageable and undischargeable within the immanent frame. Shame and shaming have remained as powerful as ever, particularly as they have become weaponized by their use in political contexts. How are we to understand this strange persistence of something that was supposed to have gone away by now? This lecture explores the origins of this condition, and what, if any, antidotes to it are available to us.