Honor and Public Opinion

Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2001

Honor has been an indispensable reference in the life of individuals and societies throughout the course of human history. As a basic concern of men and women, the phenomenon already appears in the earliest literary testimonies. The heroes of the Greek, Roman or German epic poems adapt their behavior to the demands of this particular deity, the honor. Literature, at any time, in any culture, in any language, makes constant use of honor as an effective dramatic element. The recurrent presence is certainly a reflection of the actual significance the phenomenon of honor had in everyone’s life. This essay clarifies why honor is given such importance; why it has been considered to be more valuable for the individual than his/her own life. To this end, the mention of public opinion is unavoidable. This phenomenon, in its social psychological conception, is the key which permits us to enlighten the labyrinth of honor. One question will remain open: has honor vanished from the repertoire of concerns of modern men and women in the Wersten civilization? That seems to have been the destiny of honor. Nevertheless, the conclusions of our analysis make evident the weakness of this hypothesis. At the same time, they serve as basis for future empirical research about the contemporary reality of honor.