Trouble With Blame / Edition 1

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Overview

Blame society. Blame a bad upbringing. Blame the circumstances. Blame the victim--she may even blame herself. But what about the perpetrator? When the blame is all assigned, will anyone be left to take responsibility?

This powerful book takes up the disturbing topic of victimization and blame as a pathology of our time and its consequences for personal responsibility. By probing the psychological dynamics of victims and perpetrators of rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, Sharon Lamb seeks to answer some crucial questions: How do victims become victims and sometimes perpetrators? How can we break the psychological circle of perpetrators blaming others and victims blaming themselves? How do victims and perpetrators view their actions and reactions? And how does our social response to them facilitate patterns of excuse?

With clarity and compassion, Lamb examines the theories, excuses, and psychotherapies that strip both victims of their power and perpetrators of their agency--and thus deprive them of the means to human dignity, healing, and reparation. She shows how the current practice of painting victims as pure innocents may actually help perpetrators of abuse to shirk responsibility for their actions; they too can claim to be victims in their own right, passive and will-less in their wrongdoing.

The Trouble with Blame clarifies the social cost (quickly becoming so apparent) of letting perpetrators off too easily, and points out the dangers of over-emphasizing victimization, two problems which eclipse our dire need for accountability and recovery.

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Editorial Reviews

Ethics - Lawrence Blum
Sharon Lamb is an academic and clinical psychologist whose impressive book The Trouble with Blame will be invaluable to philosophers. Lamb engages the politically charged topic of victimization in the context of sexual abuse, domestic physical abuse, and rape (including date rape). She brings together an extraordinary amount of empirical and theoretical material on these matters. At the same time, Lamb's own argument is extremely interesting in its own right, and is set in an overall context informed by philosophical writers on these topics (such as Dennett, Kekes, Hampton, Jeffrie Murphy, Robert Adams). Finally, The Trouble with Blame is exceptionally well written and free of jargon...Lamb stakes out a very subtle and nuanced feminist position on the concrete issues of sexual victimization, as well as on the more philosophical terrain of free will and determinism. Philosophers, and anyone interested in either of these two sorts of concerns, would do well to avail themselves of the riches of The Trouble with Blame. Would that more philosophers and psychologists were so engaged with one anothers' disciplines.
Christian Century
Lamb does not simply dismiss the claims of victimhood. Instead she offers a discernment about the meaning of victimage and sets forth criteria for making judgments about claims by those who may always blame others. But perpetrators do not get off lightly; in fact, they do not get off at all. Lamb studies the dialectic of innocence and guilt, and the charge and receipt of a charge, in the victim-perpetrator duality. The refreshing energies in this book reveal what too-frequnt claims of victimage do to license perpetrators.
ABA Journal - Paul Reidinger
For Lamb...the knotty criminal-justice problems of sexual assault, domestic battery and rape do not parse neatly into categories of guilt and innocence, right and wrong, good and evil. Instead she sees those crises as surface echoes of profound social and gender dynamics, as unhappy outcomes to which both parties contribute...[A] brisk, sharply written essay...[Lamb offers] a sophisticated position that takes some time to digest, but in the end it makes an enormous amount of sense. Lamb has written a book that uniquely captures her twin senses of sympathy and rectitude--a combination our prison-happy lawmakers would do well to ponder.
Feminism & Psychology
A refreshing and courageous feminist excursion that faces the complex dilemmas which occur when perpetration and victimization are simultaneously examined.
Criminal Justice Review - Joel Best
The Trouble with Blame is a thoughtful attempt to resolve an important issue.
Victim Support Magazine
[ Lamb] probes the relationship between victim and perpetrators and argues that contemporary stories of abuse, incest, rape and battering make it harder to ascertain absolute guilt and innocence, forcing a rethink of the concept of blame.
Booknews
Lamb (psychology, Bryn Mawr College) questions the cultural definitions of victim, perpetrator, blame, and responsibility in a compassionate but objective study of the issue of violence in contemporary society. She discusses theories, excuses, and psychotherapies which strip victims of their power, perpetrators of volition, and contribute to a cycle of victimization which hinders accountability and recovery. Her discussions struggle with difficult gray areas through a timely study of current psychological practice and theory. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674910119
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,100,733
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Lamb is Professor of Psychology at St. Michael's College.
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Table of Contents

Note on Terminology
Prologue 1
1 Who Is to Blame? 5
2 Victims 22
3 Perpetrators 56
4 Onlookers 88
5 The Making of Perpetrators and Victims 128
6 Forgiveness and Punishment 160
Epilogue 179
Notes 189
Acknowledgments 233
Index 235
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