At the heart of the theory of the civilising process is the role of shame as a mechanism for both creating and reinforcing the social control and self-control that make social order possible, a theme Elias took from Freud’s analysis in Civilisation and Its Discontents (1994). Repressed shame was understood by Elias as a mechanism for checking reality; that is, aligning the individual’s actions with the potential reaction from the social audience. Parents are deemed to be charged with the prime responsibility of accomplishing this process of discipline in children. In a sense, shame represents the voice of ‘respectable’ society inside the individual and should be acquired through the process of childhood socialisation in which children develop their ‘people skills’, their ability to interact with others while developing foresight and empathy for the feelings of those with whom they relate. If this process is accomplished effectively, those with a stake in mainstream society will want to avoid doing anything that might exclude them from full membership of the social group and the culture with which they identify. However, Elias recognised that modern men and women are finely balanced between conformity and giving in to their ‘affective impulses’, which might lead to short-term gratification but longer-term shame. This anxiety is grounded in people’s confrontation internally with their own thresholds of shame and humiliation and the ‘fear’ that an indiscretion, or giving in to an impulse, might project them out of ‘respectable’ society to face humiliation for an anti-social act. However, for those who are marginalised as a by-product of the processes of social and economic change, and exist outside so-called ‘respectable’ society, a different sense of propriety

may develop. We should expect their thresholds of shame to alter in relation to their changing perception of connectedness, their sense of what is important, and their sense of what counts as humiliation. In the ghetto and in the poor neighbourhoods, shame and humiliation will mean different things compared with suburbia. The theory of the de-civilising processes suggests that the ‘affective impulses’ of those who have excluded ‘respectable society’ from their psychology, because it has excluded them from its benefits and rewards, will be unrestrained by conventional standards of shame. Elias’ theory, while inspired by Freud, remains thoroughly sociological by directing our attention to the mechanisms that interfere with the creation and reinforcement of social interdependence. However, in policy and politics today, this is not regarded as a structural issue; it is a failure of effective parenting. Responsibility for the failure to socialise poor children with the appropriate value orientations, and with appropriate levels of restraint in their behaviour, is being placed at the door of the dysfunctional family. The debate about juvenile delinquency and its control has focused attention as much on punishing parents as on punishing their offspring. This is particularly interesting in a British context because the youth justice and child-welfare system in Scotland differs from the rest of the UK in that it explicitly rejects a parent-blaming approach to youth justice.