Guilt in recent years has begun to regain its popularity in research after being overshadowed during the second half of the twentieth century by the explosion of scholarly interest concerning shame. The present discussion sets off from the classical conceptions of Nietzsche and Freud and traces the changing fortunes of guilt studies during the twentieth century before proceeding to an exploration of the main difficulties that have been encountered in the effort to explain the limited sociological engagement with such issues. The focus is on certain specificities of guilt as an emotion, which is difficult to both classify and distinguish from shame insofar as it has a multitude of types that belong to both sides of the existing binary classifications of emotions. While it is argued that guilt requires both micro and macro sociological analyses in light of its inherent complexity, this investigation adopts a microsociological perspective in drawing a distinction between primary and secondary guilt in order to provide a background for the argument that guilt is not disappearing from modern society, as has been claimed. It is rather on the way to recapturing its previous status as a ‘master emotion’, which it shares with its counterpart shame.