Book on remorse and the law receives honourable mention from American Sociological Association

A crop of the book cover authored by Richard Weisman.
York Professor Emeritus Richard Weisman A book by Richard Weisman, professor emeritus of social science in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University, has been accorded significant recognition by the American Sociological Association. Weisman’s book Showing Remorse: Law and the Social Control of Emotion (2014), published by Ashgate as part of the Canada Series: Law, Justice and Power, has received Honourable Mention from the Committee for the Distinguished Book Award for 2014 of the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association.
The jury’s citation reads as follows: “The work is deeply researched, persuasively argued and lucidly written.  In its treatment of emotions as an event mediated by symbols and interpretations, the work suggests an inextricable social component in expressions of remorse.  Its argument that expressions of remorse vary across social contexts in terms of cultural style, when called for and how they should be conveyed and that these are matters to be explained is evocative.  Along with Foucauldian roots in the notion of the creation of ‘the subject of power’, the book offers an intriguing focus on the contingency of attributions of remorse as well as recognition of the pathological approach to the absence of remorse where a transgressor who is perceived as unable to experience remorse is naturalized as different and somehow deficient.  Emphasis on the ways in which defiance in the refusal to express remorse can be construed as a challenge to the moral basis for the actions of the court offers new insight into the ways communal normativity is reaffirmed or, as in the case of South Africa, reshaped.  This book adds nuance and depth to a much considered topic and so makes a most significant contribution to the intellectual wealth of our field.”
Weisman’s book will be formally recognized at the Sociology of Law Section Business Meeting at the American Sociological Association Conference in San Francisco Aug. 19.

Cover of Richard Weisman's new book
Cover of Richard Weisman’s new book

Using examples drawn from Canada, the United States, and South Africa, Weisman demonstrates that the showing of remorse is a site of negotiation and contention between groups who differ about when it is to be expressed and how it is to be expressed. Weisman’s book illustrates these points by looking at cases about which there was conflict over whether the wrongdoer should show remorse or whether the feelings that were shown were sincere. Building on the earlier analysis, Weisman shows that the process of deciding when and how remorse should be expressed contributes to the moral ordering of society as a whole.

Weisman’s current research analyzes the social processes by which remorsefulness and remorselessness are claimed by self and attributed by other. Law is one important site for this process in that considerations of remorse enter into judgments about parole, sentencing, dangerous offender status in Canada and capital punishment in the United States.

The book is available from Ashgate.