Can Systemic Humiliation Be Transformed into Systemic Dignity?

  • Linda M. Hartling
  • Evelin G. Lindner


The United States, as in other nations, is in the midst of a social-climate crisis inflamed by a staggering economic gap between the rich and the poor, a polarized and paralyzed political system, a history of criminal injustice that has led to mass incarceration of marginalized populations, a proliferation of gun violence and rampage shootings, and much more. The contentious conditions shaping social relations in the United States are also evident in the atmosphere of heated interactions surging in the world.

Social crises are complex, but we can no longer afford to overlook a phenomenon that plays a central role in fomenting and intensifying these crises, a dynamic that concurrently cripples our ability to respond to these developments. This chapter examines the plague of systemic humiliation, a rising infliction that degrades our social infrastructure and disrupts our immediate and long-term communal cohesiveness. Public policies and practices contaminated by unacknowledged cycles of humiliation generate hot embers in our society, resulting in potentially explosive conditions that frequently go unrecognized until it is too late. More than ever before, the elements that constitute systemic humiliation should be recognized as fundamental mechanisms in the formation of modern society. We will describe how the meaning of humiliation has changed as our sense of human dignity has grown and explore relational ways to replace systemic humiliation with a proliferation of dignity. Cultivating systemic dignity—at home and around the globe—creates space for mutually beneficial arrangements of relationships to emerge, relationships that protect and provide for the full participation, growth, and development of all members of society.


Dignity Humiliation Conflict Violence Security Psychology 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Hartling
    • 1
  • Evelin G. Lindner
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS)Lake OswegoUSA

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