28 May 2005 | Draft
Varieties of Honour and Dishonour
distinguishing intrinsic honour from honourable externalities
- / -
Annex 1 of: Honour
Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge to the nameless of dishonourable
Varieties of honour
Honour in practice
Institutionalization of honour
Honour cultures, systems and codes
Distortions of honour
Honour and credibility: "without honour"
nature of honour
of "honour": Beyond honouring power and tolerating difference
challenges of the disciplines [Annex 2]
"Finite games" vs "Infinite games"
"Nomenklatura" vs. Unhonoured "Nameless"
Integrative function of honour in interdisciplinarity and
Varieties of honour
Complementary qualities of honour: In endeavouring to distinguish
the fundamentally integrative role of honour, the following can be considered,
both in their "positive" and "negative" connotations. Of
particular interest is the way in which honour is not automatically associated
with certain "positive" attributes, and honour may be accorded despite
their absence, transcending any corresponding "negative" attributes.
|Table 1: Attributes essential
(or non-essential) to honour
|Necessarily essential attributes of honour?
||Honouring transcendence of negative attributes?
|trustworthiness: under all circumstances?
||untrustworthiness: honour may transcend trust?
|integrity: essential to identity of what is
||inconstancy, shamelessness: creative artists?
|credibility, veracity, honesty: only incidental?
||deceitfulness: honouring roguishness?
|respectability: necessarily respectable?
||unrespectability: creative eccentrics?:
|reputation, renown, notability: only incidental?
||disrepute, unrenowned: honouring the disreputable?
|status, prestige: only incidental?
||unprestigious: honouring the unrenowned?
|glorious: but only within a context?
|presence. charisma, impressive
||unimpressive: honouring the ordinary?
||undignified: ability to act foolishly?
|grace, beauty: natural, but only incidental?
||ugliness: for the reality it constitutes?
| praiseworthy, estimable: relative and not
|seniority, experience: only incidental?
||inexperience: for effort?
|power: only incidental?
||weakness, impotence: honouring the weak?
|commitment, dedication: only incidental?
||indifference, apathy: nihilists?
|altruism, selflessness: only incidental?
||selfishness: those who "know what they
|inspiration, wondrousness: possibly only relative
||as a negative exemplar?
|operacy, efficacy: only incidental?
||inoperacy, inefficacy: non-essential to style?
|craftsmanship, style: only incidental?
||honouring what is behind lack of any style?
|significance: but only relative?
||insignificance: honouring the insignificant?
|courage, valour: imprudence?
|holiness: honourig the secular?
||unholiness: enemies may also be
The above attributes may be configured as aspects around the core notion of
|Circular configuration of qualities of honour
Honour may be variously expressed as indicated in Table 2
|Table 2: Forms of expression of honour:
|offering a token
||gifts, awards, flowers
||beatification, sanctification, sacred animals
||qualifications, degrees, medals, awards
||titles, family name, property
||honours list, designated successor, transfer of mantle
||gesture of respect, "doing someone the honour",
|oath taking, pledging
It is useful to distinguish (as in Table 3) forms of honour in terms of the
different parties that may be engaged by the process.
|Table 3: Symmetric and asymmetric conditions
of honour (by party)
(citizens, fans, followers)
||faiths (religions, practices)
||disciplines (intellectual, physical)
(races, ethnic groups, castes))
It is useful to distinguish (as tentatively in Table 4) forms of honour in
terms of the respective roles of the honoured and the honouring in any operative
system of status (see also Table
5: Tentative Relationship between Forms of Honour in Dialogue). Associated
forms of dishonour may further clarify this.
|Table 4: Symmetric and asymmetric
conditions of honour (by status)
||patronizing honour (eg
(dis)honouring citizens / troops / employees, asymmetric marriage, hard
science (dis)honouring of non-scientific disciplines)
followers (eg lieutenants, "woman-in-her-place", hard science
(dis)honouring of soft sciences)
||primus inter pares
(hard science (dis)honouring of mathematics)
||(dis)honouring the disadvantaged
by the ordinary person
||mutual (dis)honour (eg
ideal marriage, ideal inter-disciplinarity)
||(un)due honour (eg for
elders / seniors, child for parents, wife for husband, placement of someone
"on a pedestal")
||(dis)honouring those equally
disadvantaged ("in the same boat")
of alms and succour
(eg by citizens, troops, employees)
Honour in practice
Honourable gestures and their status: The acknowledgement
of honour due, and duly given, is evident in practice in a range of formal gestures
and rituals. These include:
- gestures of respect typically taking the form of giving precedence, notably
to the elderly, to seniors, or possibly (depending on culture) to those of
the opposite gender. They are most evident in movement and placement. Lists
of precedence *** on formal occasions are designed to indicate to whom honour
is due by whom. Those considered to embody spiritual insight may evoke patterns
of ritual in their honour (eg puja), or in honour of the spirit that
communicates through them. Individuals may be specially honoured on their
namedays or birthdays. Those acquiring power may be formally recognized in
ceremonies of allegiance involving particular gestures (kissing a ring, etc).
Special foods may be offered to honour a guest, such that refusal to partake
is deemed to bring dishonour on the host. Similarly, in some cultures, a wife
or daughter may be offered in the same spirit.
- collective ceremonies may be used to honour and celebrate identity. These
may take the form of ceremonial parades or specially dedicated musical or
other performances (odes of praise). On such occasions tokens, such as medals,
may be ceremoniously presented.
- honouring the memory of those absent or deceased, represented by images,
mementos or memorials, may take the form of gestures of respect or commemorative
ceremonies. This is notably the case with respect to ancestors or those who
died in conflict. The importance variously attached to this is illustrated
by the major diplomatic incident in Sino-Japanese relations in 2005 arising
from the continuing "honouring" of Japan's military dead (including
Class A war criminals) by its prime minister at the Yasukuni
| more |
is to be contrasted with the negligent honouring of the the UK's own military
dead at the Westminster Cenotaph
(Maev Kennedy, No
banners, no balloons, just a single Thank You. The Guardian,
9 May 2005).
- oath taking may be one of the ways in which the honour underlying and binding
a relationship is given form. This is most evident on formally taking office,
or in marriage ceremonies. It is notably important in some legal systems as
an affirmation in court proceedings that only truth is to be spoken. Binding
oaths may be taken by individuals to celebrate the honourable nature of the
bond between them. They may include phrases such as "on my honour",
"honour bound", etc.
- the process of apologizing, or presenting formal apologies, may be explicitly
recognized as an honourable gesture following action deemed to have been dishonourable
or to have dishonoured another in some measure
- resigning from a position in society may be recognized as the "honourable
thing to do" following failure to respond appropriately to a situation,
or as a result of having been associated with (and to a degree complicit in)
the dishonourable actions of others
- committing suicide may, in some cultures, be understood as an honourable
means of "damage limitation" in avoiding further exposure of one's
associates to the consequences of an act deemed dishonourable.
Honourable obligations: The nature of honour is perhaps most
directly felt in the following obligations, whether willingly accepted without
question or not:
- to parents, whether through unquestioned love or primarily through a sense
of honourable duty (possibly under pressure of the expectations of others
in the family or community that obligations should be honourably fulfilled).
Although possibly independent of any sentiment, it may even be independent
of any sense of respect. It is notable that some radical approaches (some
sects, communism, etc) to social reform may specifically focus on breaking
any obligation to parents, whereas other approaches to social organization
may strongly stress such obligations in the form of "family values".
- to ancestors as guardians of the honour of the family, by extension of the
process through which parents are honoured, possibly extending back over many
generations ** Mormons.
- to unrelated elders, by association with the process through with parents
- to children as the vehicle through which the future is assured, and whereby
the honour of the family will be sustained
- to a spouse, notably in fulfillment of martial vows through which the other
is to be honoured
- to women and children (whether relatives or not), especially in perilous
situations where safeguarding them (despite risk to oneself) is deemed the
most appropriate and honourable action.
- to the family, whose honour must necessarily be protected, possibly at any
- to women of one's family where their honour and, by implication, the
honour of the family is placed at risk through unseemly, dishonourable
association with others, notably symbolized by adulterous relations and
premarital intercourse (and dishonourable loss of virginity)
- to ensure an honourable marriage for any children, which in certain
cultures may call for a daughter to be killed where she is deemed to have
irreparably dishonoured the family (as with so-called "honour killings")
- to avoid association with son's who have dishonoured the family by refusing
to submit to parental authority and are consequently "disowned"
- to those for whom one is responsible, whether on some form of "sinking
ship" or a failing corporation placing employee livelihoods at risk,
whether the honourable thing" is for the "captain" to leave
only after every effort has been made to safeguard others.
- to peers and companions, as at "reunion" gatherings of alumni
bodies, veterans celebrations, or encounters of survivors of shared traumatic
- giri ***
Institutionalization of honour
Honourable career: A particular career path may be recognized
as being honourable, or more honourable than others. In conventional society,
the professions, the civil service, banking, etc may be so considered -- in
contrast with the arts or theatre, for example. In the UK service in such a
career may be acknowledged on the "honours list" -- by which the individual
may be entitled to the appellation "Right Honourable". Members of
Parliament may also be named with that title. Irrespective of career, the "honours
list" may specifically recognize a wide variety of careers in service to
A quite different understanding of honour is expressed by nominations for the
Right Livelihood Award.
On retirement from a long career with a company, an employee may also be honoured.
Honour in hierarchies vs networks: Membership of voluntary
societies, notably semi-secret societies, may also be honoured to various degrees.
Typically this is associated with rising through a hierarchy over the years,
perhaps associated with a succession of rights of passage or initiations into
higher levels of understanding that are honoured by those who aspire to them.
Distinct from hierarchical patterns of honour are those accorded between members
of interrelated networks. Here honour is associated with long-term engagement
or activism in response to an issue. It is the honour accorded to companions
on a journey whose values others may not appreciate.
Honour: symbols, surrogates and trappings: Obvious examples that are
associated with pursuit of status include
Time brings in another dimension with regard to the nature of honour recognized
by a defeated enemy, as with awards of the Iron Cross by the Nazi regime --
perhaps now to be viewed as dishonourable by the victors, but would naturally
now be regarded as honourable by neo-nazis. Britain's most prestigious military
honour, the Victoria Cross, is normally only awarded posthumously. Recipients
of lesser orders consider it an honour to stand beside living recipients. Perhaps
more striking is the contrast betwen the honour accorded "living"
gods, through worship and via their intermediaries, in contrast with the honourability
of "dead" gods of societies of cultures of the distant past (cf the
2500 deities in Michael Jordan. Encyclopedia
of Gods, 1993).
Honour: "Nomenklatura" and titles: In many
cultures, the name of a family or an individual may be associated with a particular
degree of honour, possibly recognized explicitly by titles as in the case of
the nobility (Almanach de Gotha, Debretts Peerage***). With the diminishing
role of the traditional aristocracy, honour may be directly associated with
"old" family names and dynasties. Other kinds of title have been recognized,
with each of which a degree of honour may be due from those that acknowledge
- Government and head of state:
- Designated honours: These are honours designated by a government or
the head of state. In the UK they are associated with the "Honours
List". They may result in entitlement to a set in the House of Lords.
In France, membership of the Legion d'Honneur may be accorded, .for example.
A poignant example is the creation of a whole set of aristocratic titles
in Haiti on its liberation in 18***. Duke of Marmalade
- Diplomatic titles may be accorded by government to their representatives
to foreign countries.-- accreditation lists
- Land titles: Titles may be accorded, or purchased, to estates and domains.
- Bureaucratic (nomenklatura) -- book
- Government officials
- Elected reps MEPs 14-16 april guardian
- Military titles
- Organization titles:
- Honourary societies:
- The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple
- Honourable Company of Master Mariners
- Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons
- Knights of ...
- Corporate titles CEOs, VPs
- NGO titles
- IGO titles: excellency
- Honourary member of professional society
- Secret society titles:
- Masonic degrees
- Order titles
- Imperial Dragon
- Academic degrees
- Performance titles:
- Black belt, dan
- Championship titles chess, Wimbledon
- Miss Universe
- Record holders: Guiness Book
- Employee of the week
- Repute: gangs, criminals, Billy the Kid
- Laureates: Nobel, Right Livelihood
- Naming: geophysical, astrophysical, species (slime molds), notations, equations,
theories, Mandelbrot, problems, buildings, roads, errors, devices, Occam
- Temporal titles day, week, etc Cycle Lifetime Eternal
- internet game titles
Titles may be understood as a mark of honour, institutionalizing honourability
and ensuring its protection in some measure..They may determine orders of precedence
(placement in ceremonies) and other entitlements. Distinguishj9ing appropriate
precedence, and therefore the honour to be accorded or recognized, may be the
delicate task of a Court Chamberlain. Typically those with some form of title
are recognized in works such as a Who's Who, possibly in a specialized
domain (eg Who's Who
in International Organizations; Marquis
Who's Who in Science and Engineering).
A notable characteristic of some of the honourably titled is the expectation
that their entitlements should include privileges such as immunity to prosecution.
- (diplomatic) immunity against prosecution
- government immunity
- bureaucratic immunity
- corporate immunity
- military immunity
- military (cable car, Okinawa,) Rainbow Warrior
- piece-getting forces
- licensed to kill
Although there are naturally Who's Whos of various kinds, it is to expected
that there is no Who is Not Who in a democratic society
- do you know who I am
- cover-up to protect collective honour
- EC resignation
- covered with honours (talking up the value of honour)
Honour in international declarations: Honour is recognized in
several key international declarations as follows, with notable exceptions:
Formulations of "global ethics" tend not to mention "honour",
although it may be explicitly considered an honour to speak on global ethics and
values (cf UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at Tübingen. Third
Global Ethic Lecture, 2003).
- The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (1948):
- Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference
with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon
his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of
the law against such interference or attacks.
- The Universal Islamic
Declaration of Human Rights (1981):
- Foreward: These rights aim at conferring honour and dignity on
mankind and eliminating exploitation, oppression and injustice.
- Preambule: Whereas the human rights decreed by the Divine Law
aim at conferring dignity and honour on mankind and are designed to eliminate
oppression and injustice.... conditions shall be established such that
the institution of family shall be preserved, protected and honoured as
the basis of all social life;
- VIII. Right to Protection of Honour and Reputation: Every person
has the right to protect his honour and reputation against calumnies,
groundless charges or deliberate attempts at defamation and blackmail.
- XVII. Status and Dignity of Workers: Islam honours work and the
worker and enjoins Muslims not only to treat the worker justly but also
generously. He is not only to be paid his earned wages promptly, but is
also entitled to adequate rest and leisure.
- The OAS American
Convention on Human Rights (1969):
- Article 11. Right to Privacy: 1. Everyone has the right to have
his honor respected and his dignity recognized. 2. No one may be the object
of arbitrary or abusive interference with his private life, his family,
his home, or his correspondence, or of unlawful attacks on his honor or
- Article 14. Right of Reply: For the effective protection of honor
and reputation, every publisher, and every newspaper, motion picture,
radio, and television company, shall have a person responsible who is
not protected by immunities or special privileges.
- The European
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe: Charter
of Fundamental Rights (2004)
Dramatic manifestations of honour -- and its dramatisation: Honour
tends to become evident in the dramatic situations engendered by the possibility
of dishonour. These dramatic dimensions are the fabric of a charged psychosocial
reality. They are the stuff of literature, theatre and movie scenarios which
cultivate a sense of honour develop insights into its nature. Examples include:
- romance and courtship as mutual honouring, ideally to be reflected subsequently
in making love
- honourable nature of heroic response to an enemy (including the possibility
of collective suicide as at Masada)
- honouring a defeated enemy, whether through the surrender processes (eg
saluting of Confederate Army) or in the judicial procedures brought against
them (Saddam***), or in the approach to execution (including the possibility
of allowing an enemy to commit suicide)
- recognition of the appropriateness of an "honourable death", notably
including the rural practice in some cultures whereby the eldest leave the
food-starved homestead in order to die to reduce the number of mouths to be
- dramatic scenarios whose credibility turns on the central role of honour,
its protection, its betrayal and subsequent vengeance. Archetypal interactions
between protagonists in popular movies (westerns, crime, martial arts, etc)
typically explore the dramatic tensions between honour and dishonour.
"Cultures of honour", "Honour systems",
and "Honour codes"
Cultures of honour: Anthopologists contrast "cultures of honour"
with "cultures of law". Cultures of honour typically appear among
nomadic peoples (Bedouins, herdsmen, cowboys, etc) with limited recourse to
the protection of the law and who are obliged to transport their most valuable
property with them. Fear of rapid revenge for theft or other abuse may then
be adopted as an effective strategy. They may also develop among aristocratic
families who perceive themselves to be framers and upholders of law and order.
Such cultures also emerge in criminal underworlds and gangs. Conceptions of
honour vary widely between such cultures. A notable example is the acceptability
of honour killings (usually female) if the "family's honour" has in some way
been "defiled". [more
Honour has been of greater importance in the past as a guiding principle of
society. Codes of honour required a "man of honour" to defend his
own honour (possibly as a "gentleman"), the honour of his wife, of
his (blood-)family or of his beloved. Its importance has apparently declined
in modern secular societies. A form of honour is portrayed as surviving in so-called
"hot-blooded" cultures (Italian, Arab, Hispanic ...), in more "gentlemanly"
"southern" societies, and in feudal or other agrarian societies, where
land use is of more importance than in deracinated industrial societies. Paul
of Honour, 2003):
- In the modern era, honour is generally considered obsolete.... However,
it is only the language of honour that has vanished, not the idea. Carrying
out research for a book on the subject of war and honour, I have repeatedly
found that, although the details of what constitutes honourable behaviour
have changed over the centuries, its essence has not.
- In the case of the American South, for instance, honour was once based on
race.... Things now are rather different.... But as the Michigan experiments
demonstrated, southerners retain two vital aspects of the old honour system:
a high degree of sensitivity to insults and a tendency to respond with violence
- From the earliest days of the American Republic, honour played a vital role
in the political process.... The code of honour was strongest, though, in
the South... Sensitivity over one’s honour was more than a purely personal
matter. It was southern honour that caused the War of 1812.
- Some 50 years later, the South seceded from the Union. Opponents of the
Confederacy generally argue that it did so to preserve slavery.... As the
historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown has pointed out, slavery provoked the secessional
crisis, but ‘southern honour pulled the trigger’.
- Letters from Confederate soldiers make it clear that, once fighting started,
they considered it a matter of honour and duty to join the colours.
- The honour code dictates that one loses face if one does not respond to
an insult, but one does not always know whether something is an insult. So
it is always best to treat it as if it were... precisely the logic of the
2002 US national security strategy.
- As the ancient Greeks knew, the pursuit of honour often leads people to
attack others, to drive them down, in order to inflate themselves. The Greeks
called such behaviour hubris, and believed that hubris inevitably resulted
in disaster. It certainly did for the Confederacy.
Given the underlying importance that honour seems to continue to play in society,
there is a case for exploring past treatises on honour produced in societies
where its role was more explicitly and formally recognized. How has "honour"
evolved into the present day in the Hispanic, Arabian, Germanic and Nipponese
cultures, for example.? The Hispanic cultures were notable for their concern
with insult and its reparation through duel, to the point that a papal encyclical
was written in 1891 to check its excesses [more].
Such insights could be fruitfully contrasted with those that prevail in regions
where family and tribal feuds -- arising from matters of honour -- continue
to affect relations. In the case of females, honour historically related to
sexuality, with preservation of "honour" equated primarily to maintenance of
virginity, or at least to preservation of exclusive monogamy. It is believed
that feminism may have changed some linguistic usage in this respect.
Such understandings from the past could be usefully contrasted with various
modern efforts to formulate systems of global ethics. The question is the extent
to which these emphasize "watered down" understandings of honour through
euphemisms such as "tolerance" or "respect".
Steven Dutch (The
World's Most Toxic Value System, 2001) argues that descriptions of
honour in other cultures may lead to gross misunderstandings -- aided by what
amounts to mistranslations:
Dutch focuses his criticism on the mentality or value system with which "honour"
is associated in some other cultures. He deliberately chooses the Arabic word
thar , "blood vengeance," as being a more appropriate description of this
Almost everybody will react to an attack on their honor, but in many societies
people are expected to restrain their impulse to get revenge: to forgive or
simply ignore insults, and most members of those societies succeed to a greater
or lesser extent. But in societies dominated by the "honor" ethic,
it's permissible, often demanded, to seek revenge. In many places, this cycle
of revenge creates blood feuds that last for generations, or results in periodic
flareups of mass violence or ethnic cleansing. If there's a single attribute
that defines the "honor" mentality, it's the notion that private
killing over personal grievances is acceptable.... While these concepts in
other languages may overlap some of the elements of what we term honor, the
"honor" mentality just as often impels people in other societies
to do things that are grossly dishonorable by our standards.....
Dutch carefully distinguishes thar from bushido:
The thar mentality can be said to include these features. They vary
in degree from person to person and place to place but if we find all or most
of them in a society we can justly apply the label thar.
- Extreme importance of personal status and sensitivity to insult
- Acceptance of personal revenge including retaliatory killing
- Obsessive male dominance
- Paranoia over female sexual infidelity
- Primacy of family rights over individual rights [more]
One of the most profound consequences of mistranslating foreign terms as
"honor" is a tendency by many people to regard Japanese society as similar
to the thar cultures of the Balkans and the Middle East. Japan is not a "shame"
culture - Japan and the West are the two great "guilt" cultures of the world...The
Japanese code of Bushido indeed placed great emphasis on personal honor but
also on obedience no matter what.... In sharp contrast to thar, Bushido was
an internalized code of honor. One could be shamed in Bushido even if nobody
Clearly such criticism must be assessed against counter-criticism of western
understandings of honour. The most radical and influential of these is perhaps
that of Sayyid Qutb who
argues of western civilization that "material production is regarded as
more important, more valuable and more honorable than the development of human
character." (Luke Loboda, The
Thought of Sayyid Qutb: Radical Islam's Philosophical Foundations).
Aristocratic honours systems: Ancient Japan for example, and feudal
England both had immensely complicated honour systems for the nobility. The
social self in Japan notably developed through indigenous ideas of loyalty and
honour developed within the Japanese samurai or warrior class. Honours were
traditionally bestowed upon people the ruling Monarch by a ruling for some valuable
service to the Crown. Noble Titles (such as Knight, Dame, Lord, Earl, Countess),
when given in this way, or by recognized Orders of Chivalry, resulted in the
recipient being admitted as a titled personage to a Royal Court, the establishment,
and/or so called ruling class, and carried numerous social, business, political
and other privileges, as well as immense status to the holder.
An interesting evolution of such a system into the current period is the status
of honour in European
Orders of Chivalry and Papal
Orders (awarded by the Holy See or founded by Papal Bull). In the case of
the Knights of
the Sovereign Teutonic Military Order, to meet the needs of the Order
into the 21st century and encourage new giving, a prestigious honours programme
has been developed. Rather than conferring Knighthoods, as an honour for services
on the battlefield, it now uses its ancient Fons de Norum rights enabling
it to confer a Noble Title, or Order of Chivalry on financial benefactors, or
on people who have performed other great services in support of its global philanthropic
and humanitarian ideals.
Awarded "honours": Various awards and honour systems have
evolved and been used for decades or even centuries [see a collection].
States, through their president or monarch, or by action of the prime minister,
may award a wide variety of honours, of different levels of prestige, according
to specified criteria. Some may be heriditary. In 2003, it was however revealed
that in the case of the UK, nearly 300 citizens had declined to accept the highest
of such honours, including knighthoods and CBEs.
Institutional honour systems and codes: These are a set of procedures
under which persons are trusted to act without direct supervision in situations
that might allow for dishonest behavior. They may be designed to ensure that
none shall take unfair advantage of another. They are most widely used in educational
institutions and prisons, notably in the USA (cf The
Honor System at Duke University, 1978; Martha Allen,
A brief overview of honor codes in higher education, 2004). According
to the Center for Academic Integrity (Fundamental
Principles of Academic Integrity):
Many institutions have sought to promote a climate of trust through honor
systems, which are virtually unique to educational communities. Honor systems
are a respected and long-standing tradition among colleges and universities,
and there is empirical evidence of their positive effect on the behavior and
attitudes of their students and faculty.
A review of academic codes in the USA (Honor
Codes Across the Country) indicates that:
The honor code is a major part of life at colleges and universities across
the United States. Although each college has its own way of preventing and
dealing with cheating whether it be judicial committees, fundamental standards,
or peer juries, most incorporate some sort of honor system.... The honor code
is a statement addressing issues such as cheating, stealing, and misrepresentation,
made by a school or other institution in which its participants pledge to
adhere to. Honor codes are self-regulating because under an honor code, students
are required to turn in other students in violation of the code.
Honour systems are a characteristic of military academies, where a particular
focus is naturally placed on the role of honour as noted by Maxwell D Taylor
Point Honor System: its objectives and procedures):
Honor, as it is understood by the Corps of Cadets, is a fundamental attribute
of character. Honor is a virtue which implies loyalty and courage, truthfulness
and self respect, justice and generosity. Its underlying principle is truth.
Honor Concept of the U.S. Naval Academy, 1999):
Honor, personal integrity, and loyalty to the service, its customs and its
traditions, are fundamental characteristics essential to a successful Naval
Officer. Any midshipman unable to conduct himself at all times in a manner
indicating the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and manliness, is
unfit to hold a commission in the Navy or to enjoy the privilege of being
a member of the Brigade.[more]
However, Ellen Deborah Ellis (The
Honor System Re-examined, 1995) indication some limitations:
The introduction of the so-called honor system into the educational institutions
of the United States must bear a large share of responsibility for the intellectual
and moral turbulence and disregard for law that mark our student bodies today
A form of honour system is used in penal institutions whereby selected prison
inmates ("trusties") are entrusted with some custodial responsibilities
or perform other services assisting in the operation of the facility. Trusties
may be an essential element in the government of the prison. The system does
not preclude them using their adbantages to brutalize other inmates.
Transactional honour systems: These involve situations in which the
purchaser of a product or service is trusted on their honour to pay the due
amount, without the payment or the amount being verified by the recipient. Examples
- Unattended sales points: Roadside stalls for produce in rural areas
in which the purchaser leaves the requested amount, taking the product. Unattended
newspaper sales points in urban areas.
- Transportation tickets: Where passengers buy tickets and board without
being checked (although subject to a fine if challenged by occasional inspectors)they
must show their tickets when challenged by conductors or face a stiff fine).
Practice has shown that there are more honest people who don't get checked
by conductors than dishonest people who escape spot checks.
- Computer shareware: Copyrighted software that is available free of
charge on a trial basis, usually with the condition that users pay a fee for
continued use and support.after having deciding to use the software. Since
no trace is maintained of those aquiring the shareware, they are on their
"honour" to register and pay for the program.
Work-related honour systems: These involve operations within businesses
or manufacturing operations. Examples include:
- Employment time: The move towards greater flexibility in the working
hours of individual employee has resulted in the increasingly widespread introduction
of honour systems for job hours whereby ther individual states the time woked
without systematic verification
- Self-regulation by industries: Situations in which industries agree
to regulate their own practices rather than be subject to external regulators.
Complementary currency systems: Several thousand local currency systems
have reportedly been introduced around the world (see review in Thomas H Greco
Jr. Money: understanding and creating alternativs to legal tender, 2001).
In part inspired by the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) originated by Michael
Linton, these may have elements of multilateral settlement in which each participant
will open his/her account and trade goods and services spontaneously on an over-the-counter
basis through change in account balance [more].
According to Makoto Nishibe (On
While LETS has economic purposes such as stimulation of local economy,
establishment of cyclic economy, and prevention of credit creation as well as
capital accumulation, it also has social, ethical, and cultural purposes: to
rebuild cooperative and mutual-help human relations based upon the idea of reciprocal
exchange, to bring about trust in region and community, to share values and
interests, and to encourage interaction as well as communication.
From such a perspective a LETS-type system is a "trust currency"
realized by commitment to the community and through trusts between participants
-- a trading atmosphere based on trust. It gives form to an honour bond between
Bernard Lietaer (The
Future of Money: Creating New Wealth, Work, and a Wiser World, 2001)
The origin of the word "community" comes from the Latin munus,
which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So
community literally means to give among each other. Therefore I define my
community as a group of people who welcome and honor my gifts, and from whom
I can reasonably expect to receive gifts in return [more].
Communities of trust and networks of trust: Lee Komito (Communities
of Practice and Communities of Trust: global culture and information technology,
1994) argues that communities of practice and communities of trust are two useful
formulations, describing the individual's participation in global society --
especialluy in the light of efforts to re-create community through nex technologies,
addressing as it does the general issue of affective versus cognitive discussions
of 'global culture'. He questions whether the new communications technologies
are being used to create communities of trust out of communities of interest,
or to maintain a sense of participation in communities that are geographically
remote. The development of such communities has notably been studied in relation
to open source software projects (Siobhán O'Mahony and Fabrizio Ferraro. Managing
the Boundary of an 'Open' Project, 2004). Communities of trust webs
emerge, mirroring the tight inter-relationships within social groups of various
categories (eg. kinship or occupational groups), and the looser inter-community
relationships (cf Alfarez Abdul-Rahman. The
PGP Trust Model, 1996).
Building a community of trust is considered basic to the successful implementation
of an honour system or code. Proposals are made for building trust into internet
communications (cf The
Augmented Social Network: building identity and trust into the next generation
Internet, 2003) as exemplified by such networks as Friendly
Favors. Such communities are made of complex overlapping networks of sub-communities
based on differing degrees of trust. They are effectively "gated"
by their willingness to honour trust (cf Dynamically
Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge
Distortions of honour
Crimes of honour: These are a focus of the Project
on "Strategies of Response to Crimes of 'Honour'", jointly co-ordinated
by CIMEL (Centre Of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law) and INTERIGHTS (International
Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights). The extensive annotated bibliography
arising from this project includes:
L Abu-Odeh. 'Comparatively Speaking: The 'Honor' of the 'East' and the 'Passion'
of the 'West'', Utah Law Review, (1997), 287-307. The author describes
dishonouring as a 'collective injury' in which daughters and sisters, not
only wives and girlfriends (or ex-wives and ex-girlfriends), are victims.
In contrast, a crime of passion is an 'individual injury' and a result of
sexual jealousy. Whereas Arab laws have tended, more recently, to diminish
the relevance of emotion in penalty reductions for honour crimes, the 'West'
has essentially moved in the opposite direction; a 'humanizing' movement toward
accounting for emotions replaced a prior emphasis on more honour-based contexts
Sharon K Araji. Crimes of Honor and Shame: Violence against Women in Non-Western
and Western Societies (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2000). The author concludes
that male and/ or family honour depends on the control of women’s behaviour,
arguing that honour systems legitimise patriarchy, and thus define the public
sphere of life as dangerous and even off limits to females. Further, she adds
that the honour cultural belief system legitimizes abuse, even the murder
of women, as violations of honour codes in both traditional non-western and
modernizing western societies. Finally, the author states that honour ‘as
an overt explanation for violence against women in modern western societies
such as the US -- should not be negated’ and that future research should
consider the importance of honour systems to explain ‘the antecedents
and consequences of male violence against women in intimate relationships
in Western countries.
Whilst the project focuses primarily on crimes of honour relating to women,
such honour crimes may also be triggered by perceived insults, and "lack
of respect" between men and territorial disputes (as in urban gangs in
Honour among thieves: The phrase "honour among thieves" is
widely used. The concept of their "code of honour" has been central
to the challenges of obtaining information on the Mafia -- bound as they have
been as "uomini d'onore" (men of honor) through an oath of allegiance
to Cosa Nostra. Although framed as the antithesis of the code of chivalry, or
at least a bizarre interpretation, the Mafia's arcane rituals, and much of the
organization's structure, were orginally based largely on those of Catholic
confraternities, Freemasonry, and even on certain practices associated with
military-religious orders of chivalry like the Order of Malta [more].
The relationship between the Mafia and Freemasonry continues to be explored
in connection with institutional corruption in the EU [more].
Conflation of patriotism and (dis)honour: Military propaganda
has been highly successful is associating honour with patriotism -- irrespective
of the acts perpetrated in the name of patriotism. "I serve my country"
has been made synonymous with "My actions are honourable". Difficulties
emerge when soldiers indeed serve their country, perceiving themselves to be
acting honourably, and are then confronted with the realities of Auschwitz and
Abu Ghraib for which they and their companions are judged responsible -- possibly
under orders of the military command.
Complex arguments are then put forward whereby, provided a soldier was acting
under orders, he is then in some way absolved of responsibility for dishonorable
acts in which he may have engaged -- notably "in the heat of action"
beyond the comprehension of those in whose name the action is undertaken. Curiously,
exceptionalism is then simultaneously used to focus blame for dishonourable
acts on "bad apples" in order to avoid any responsibility by superiors
for actions under their command. A particular concern is to ensure that the
military as a whole emerges blamelessly and honourably from involvement in dishonourable
action. This is notably achieved by cover-up, denial, and the use of technical
reprimands ("slaps on the wrist"). A particular device is the appeal
to "national security" interests, and the saving of "hundreds
of lives", by the unfortunately necessary dishonourable treatment of those
who may have vital information to offer (cf the "ticking bomb argument").
Public relations is then used to launder any remaining taint on the honourable
image of the military.
- value laundering
- code of honour
Misapplication of military honour codes: The negative implications of
honour systems and codes in the case of military academies, were the subject
of a US Senate investigation (Honor
systems and sexual harassment at the service academies, 1994) as part
of more general concerns relating to harassment of women in the armed forces,
highlighted by the US Naval Academy Tailhook
incident in 1991 [more
It led in the USA to the so-called Military Honor and Decency act of 1996, prohibiting
the Department of Defense from selling, renting, or otherwise providing sexually
explicit material to any individual [more].
A scandal involving the US Air Force Academy in 2003 was described as "deeper"
than Tailhook [more
| more]. For
women military personnel, adherence to the military honour code means that they
are effectively on their honour not to report any breaches of that code involving
their own harassment or rape.
Various commentators have remarked on the level of impunity enjoyed by those
in the military associated with abuses, even within the military. For example,
Charles J. Dunlap, Jr (Melancholy
Reunion: a report from the future on the collapse of civil-military relations
in the United States, 1996):
Officers had little to fear from the military justice system, however; by
1996 it was broken....What we were left with was a system incapable of handling
the kinds of complex, high-profile cases that can affect civil-military relations.
Consider, for example, that despite literally hundreds of witnesses, the Tailhook
scandal resulted in not a single conviction. Likewise, military courts held
no one accountable for the April 1994 'friendly-fire' shootdown of two U.S.
Army helicopters in Northern Iraq, the cost of which was 26 lives... it is
little wonder that a malignancy I call 'neopraetorianism' arose.
Many have commented on the "cycle of impunity" from which the military
benefit. As noted by John S C Cooke (Military
Law Review, June 1998):
A cursory study of any history book reveals that impunity is not a new phenomenon.
However the crystalization of the cycle of impunity is very much a twentieth
century concept: perpetrators of massive huamn rights violations have been
supported, rather th&n held accountable, by the international community.
The result has been to encourag repetition by the perpetrators and by those
who are inspired by their impunity. Perhaps the most infamous example is Hitler's
observations to his senior officers in 1939: "Who after all speaks today
of the annihailation of the Armenians
The humiliation and torture perpetrated at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere might be
said to have been effectively enabled by the honour system of those responsible.
Various commentators have remarked on this relation [more]
-- in some cases to make the point that, had the honour code been respected,
the highly damaging publicity for the military and the USA would not have resulted.
Commodification of (dis)honour: Honour is a highly valued
quality. As such it has been subject to normal market forces and exploitation.
- qualifications (degrees, etc) are openly sold in various ways. They may
be purchased following a token course of study, or without it. Counterfeit
versions of the actual certificates may be purchased. In more reputable institutions,
examination questions may be purchased in advance. Indeed, even the most reputable
institutions may be prepared to offer the highest "honorary degrees"
in exchange for appropriate financial donations.
- aristocratic and other honorary titles, like degrees, may be openly purchased,
especially if they are associated with real estate.
- awards, again like degrees, may be attributed by juries under the influence
of financial considerations
- advertising may be purchased to manipulate perceptions of honour, and those
having honourable credentials may sell their services in support of dishonourable
- honourability may be achieved through those with honourable credentials
allowing themselves to be seen in the company of those seeking honourability
-- for an appropriate consideration. Photo opportunities of audiences
with the Pope may for example be arranged to this end.
- honorable patronage, by the aristocratic, may be obtained through suitable
financial arrangements ("rent-an-honorable"), as notably demonstrated
in the case of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in connection with Lockheed
- suitable investments may be made in negative political campaigns to
taint opposition candidates by "mud-slinging" operations as
demonstrated in the campaign against the presidential candidacy of John
Kerry in 2004 in the USA.
- honourability may effectively be purchased, as noted earlier, by purchasing
weapons of a level of destructive capability necessary to get the attention
of those from whom recognition of "honourability" is desired
Manufacturing (dis)honour? As implied above, any degree of
honourability -- positive or negative -- may now be manufactured by appropriate
news and image management. Sound bites and photo opportunities are used to promote
those seeking to be honoured -- or to frame their opponents as dishonourable.
Whatever the merits of the case against Michael Jackson, it can usefully be
contrasted with cases against those protected by vested interests, such as Cardinal
Law of Boston, or those responsible for the conduct of the military in Abu Ghraib.
One of the dangers of this approach is the emergence of groupthink as demonstrated
by the insights provided by the most honourable academic think tanks in relation
to assessment of the strategic threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Those opposed to the perspective of the Coalition of the Willing were simply
Honourability can be readily manufactured by team building processes -- at
least to the point at which those in the team, or in their environment, perceive
them to be honourable. This is notably the case in large corporations, but especially
in the military. Such perceptions can be periodically reinforced through ceremonies
and awards. Graduation ceremonies can be seen in this light.
An especially interesting variant is the process of beatification and sanctification
of individuals, notably in the Catholic Church. Here the danger is the devaluation
of honourability through multiplying the numbers so honoured, and undertaking
such processes with unseemly haste -- reinforcing the perception that this is
done for political purposes rather than in recognition of any inherent honourability
of the persons concerned.
The "manufacturing" of honour is clearly a response to the marked
tendency towards "grasping" for honours. This can usefully be distinguished
from any aspiration to intrinsic honour since the prime focus is on semblances
of honour, whether through titles, awards, or commemorative plaques on buildings.
Most crudely, a person or family may be dishonoured by ensuring that photographs
are made of embarrassing or compromising situations typical of blackmail scenarios.
Artificial valuation of honour: The capacity to manufacture
honour, and the commodification of honours, has resulted in a curious "market"
for honour. This resembles in many ways the complex dynamics of the art market
and the means whereby monetary value is attached to paintings. As with paintings,
the recognition of honour in society is highly dependent on its promotion by
those reputed to be the most honourable -- who have a deeply vested interest
in sustaining their own honourability.
In the case of the art world, aesthetic value is attributed by extension of
appreciation of iconic artists -- the grand masters -- whose merits are held
to be unquestionable, other than by the ignorant. New works are attributed high
value by being discovered and promoted..by those with a need to sustain appreciation
for their own sensibility and judgement amongst their peers. This context is
profoundly affected by the vagaries of fashion and tendencies to uncritical
groupthink through which the value of works can be artificially promoted. Those
involved nevertheless seek to compete in demonstrating higher aesthetic sensitivity
and insight to ensure their competitive advantage. There is therefore the question
as to the extent to which aesthetic value is produced by this process rather
than by the artists whose inspiration it is -- and may need to be complicit
in the process to ensure their own success.
In this light, there is a marked tendency to "honour spin" by those
who may themselves be less than honourable, if not downright dishonourable.
Like the creative artist following the inspiration of a muse, the inherently
honourable may find their products drawn into a market in which their genuineness
is effectively devalued by those who use it to shore up those of questionable
honourability. This is most obvious to those awarded medals for valour in combat
situations -- who may have great difficulty reconciling the honourability of
their own conduct under horrific conditions with the artificiality of those
bestowing awards. Some are impelled to return their medals in protest.
The deliberate use of torture and mutilation by military forces that cultivate
a reputation for acting honourably on behalf of their country may cause those
aware of it to completely reframe any claims to honour by those involved, those
responsible for them, or those complicit in justifying their actions. Torture
is of course designed to humiliate and dishonour -- and ultimately has that
effect on those who perpetrate it. Ensuring that torture is conducted by proxies
in client countries does not mitigate the responsibility of those in whose name
the torture is conducted. They too are dishonoured by the process and effectively
devalue the honour behind which they skulk.
"Honourability" can thus be deliberately cultivated as an artificial
condition to ensure immunity against any implication of dishonour.
- by law
- inhibition by feminist
Manipulation of honour: As an artifricially sustained market,
based on a genuine (but intangible) value, honour is subject to every form of
manipulation. Examples include:
- accumulation of honours by individuals, raising the question at what point
the quantitative accumulation ceases to constitute a meaningful measure of
the honourability of the person, rather than a devaluation of any honour they
- appropriation of honour due to another, whether in combat situations, with
respect to a discovery, or with respect to artistic creativity
- monopoly of honour where it is more appropriately shared amongst a group
of people, as may be typical of a research team or a rescue mission
- honour blackmail in which a threat of dishonour is used to constrain the
action of another
- deliberately dissociating from action deemed honourable may be justified
as "not my problem"
- lying in all its forms (including perjury) may be undertaken and justified
by manipulating any underlying sense of honour through which it is denied
("on my honour"); this is typical of "white lies" used
to minimize offence to others
- action above and beyond the law may be justified by those claiming to be
honourable, whether in their own interests ("I am the law here")
or by reference to higher authority ("I am a patriot serving the best
interests of my country")
- withholding aid to persons in danger?
- done to
Honour and betrayal: The most dramatic manipulation and devaluation
of honour is through subterfuge and betrayal -- then seen as the epitome of
dishonour by those betrayed. This may take a variety of forms extensively explored
in dramatic representations:
- betrayal of a group bound together by a degree of honour, whether a team,
a school, a military unit, a corporation, a political party; it may be considered
highly significant where there is a "code of honour" as in the case
of secret societies
- betrayal of a relationship held to be honourable, whether with respect to
a parent, a child, a spouse, a lover, a friend or a colleague
- betrayal in business, through a breach of confidence, may be framed as a
business risk or may determine the capacity of the "dishonourable"
and "untrustworthy" to undertake future business -- especially where
these depend on handshake agreements
- betrayal of a relationship with an animal is of considerable significance
to those who see their relationship with an animal (usually a pet) as involving
a degree of mutual honour and trust
- betrayal of a belief system or a system of values, as characterized by those
renouncing a religion, or converting to another; this may also be characterized
by betrayal of a family, tribal, or craft tradition
- betrayal of future generations through the overexploitation of nonrenewable
Curiously, in conflict situations, "going over to the other side"
or "assisting the enemy" may be framed as honourable and courageous
even when it may involve a high degree of betrayal. Examples include military
and industrial espionage, adultery ("all's fair in love and war").
Honour and credibility: "without honour"
Credibility: It is argued that in contemporary international
relations, the concept of "credibility" resembles that of honour. When the credibility
of a state or of an alliance appears at stake, honour-bound politicians may
call for drastic measures. [more]
Interestingly credibility is also implicit in the common reference to "prophets
without honour" deriving from the biblical quotation: "Jesus said
to them, 'A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among
his own relatives, and in his own house., notably in their own country'"
(Mark 6:4). For example:
Lack of honour: Distinct from the credibility connotation
is that of "lack of honour" or integrity as variously noted with respect
to the Bush
administration (2003), online
gaming community, double
life, legal enforcement,
of office, small
Shock: a World Christian's Manifesto (1999) by Baruch, with respect
to cultural conflict, lack of honour is seen as a key factor:
The spirit of this age, even when not fully blown into racial hatred, manifests
itself in the lack of respect for those to whom honour is due. You could say,
it's one of the earlier symptoms of cultural animosity, but it happens within
the culture between classes and age groups. Even during the 60s and 70s, while
we all revelled in racial tolerance, there appeared a "generation gap",
wherein the young lost their respect for the preceding generation. Could this
be, in fact, a seed of more fully blown manifestations of hate further down
the road? If it is, we had better learn the lesson of respect.
The other area in which the lack of honour can easily lead to social unrest,
is between social classes. In a way, the social classes, such as the working
class, middle class, professional, aristocratic, etc., are cultures in themselves.
Masses of inner city working class people can just as easily turn against
the middle and upper classes as they can minority ethnic groups. If, however,
those of the upper classes took their cue from the book of James, and honoured
those of the lower classes as their brothers and sisters, and vice versa,
how many bloody ordeals could have been avoided altogether, such as the Bolshevik
revolution, the French revolution, and the American race riots, just to name
Challenging cases for understanding honour:
- Whistleblowers: notably in the light of their perception as "traitors"
to their group, and their purported efforts to be acting in a higher cause
- Kofi Annan: in honouring (as UN Secretary General or as Under-Secretary-General
for Peacekeeping Operations) the various relevant UN resolutions and mandates,
whether or not this resulted in human rights abuses and large-scale massacres
- Pius XII: in the
light of divergent understandings of his relation to Nazism
- Bill Clinton: in the light of the scandal for which he was investigated
- Presidents, held in great honour in their country: Jacques
Chirac / Helmut
Kohl / Silvio
Berlusconi: for the financial scandals (notably relating to their political
parties) over which they have been variously investigated
- George Bush / Tony Blair: for their misleading presentations concerning
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the deaths resulting from their intervention
Kissinger: as Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1973, for his involvement
in the war in Indochina, and other military interventions by the USA
- Yasser Arafat:
as Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1993, in the light of the corruption scandals
with which he has been associated
- Ariel Sharon: despite
his indictment on war crimes charges
- Dictators, originally held in great honour in their country: Augusto
Pinochet, Fidel Castro, etc
- Adolf Eichmann:
who considered himself to be acting honourably in following the orders of
- Marshal Philippe
Pétain, a hero of World War I who negotiated an armistice to salvage French
honour and prestige, but was tried and imprisoned for collaboration with the
Nazis. As noted by Magnus Linklater (Imagine:
Churchill the failure, Pétain the hero. Times, 11 May 2005),
the reputation of national leaders is often balanced on the knife edge of
- Missionaries acting in good faith, and occasionally martyred, in their honourable
efforts to suppress any trace of indigenous cultures and their associated