Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Underlying Logic of Honor, Face, and Dignity Systems

From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8096119/


Honor systems are thought to evolve when rule of law is weak, making it incumbent on citizens, primarily men, to provide security for themselves and their families. They do so by establishing a trustworthy reputation and using anger and violence to demonstrate that they cannot be taken advantage of (Aslani et al., 2013; Leung & Cohen, 2011). To enhance security, many honor systems prioritize reciprocating favors (e.g., Cohen et al., 1999; Fischer, 1989; Shafa et al., 2015). Self-worth is based on reputation in a competitive milieu. Personal honor derives from both individual and family actions. Honor is needed to secure support and is critically damaged by failure to punish and avenge insult (Leung & Cohen, 2011). Thus, one must be vigilant for even minor threats to self or closely related others.


Self-worth in a face system is externally determined and predicated on performing social obligations with care and humility (Lee et al., 2014). Prioritizing harmony, humility, and hierarchy, face systems demand a high level of social cooperation, self-restraint, and conformity with tradition (Güngör, et al., 2014). Unlike honor systems, group members are expected to cooperate to protect each other’s reputation and dignity (aka, face). Collective goals of one’s group and family are prioritized over personal goals (Lee et al., 2014), with mandatory social obligations specific to one’s role in a stable hierarchy. In face systems, individuals entrust superiors to punish norm violations, as personal retaliation threatens group functioning.


Dignity cultures presume that all persons deserve equal opportunities and share an obligation for fair-dealing. While trust in strangers and out-group members is relatively high, social institutions are expected to step in when trust is violated (Aslani et al., 2013). Thus, a strong rule of law is needed to provide protection and administer justice. Personal acts of retaliation are improper, as they undermine rule of law. Within dignity systems, self-worth rests primarily on intrinsically derived standards. Each person is thought to have an inalienable self-worth that cannot be damaged by the actions of others (Leung & Cohen, 2011). Thus, neither insults nor familial transgressions pose an existential threat. In dignity systems, it is acceptable to prioritize personal goals over those of one’s social group (Lee et al., 2014).
And here is another summary:

In honor culture, there is a strong emphasis on protecting your family and on your reputation. Your sense of self-worth is reflected externally in the eyes of others. I like to say to my students that in an honor culture, an “A” is not an “A” until your mother sees it,” explains Ramirez-Marin.

“Face culture is similar to honor culture in that you build your sense of self through the eyes of others, but the emphasis is on humility, respect, and harmony. In contrast to both honor and face cultures, however, in dignity cultures more importance is placed on the individual than on society. You make decisions on your own, autonomously.”

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