remorse-manuscript-socialandlegalstudies-websiteedition.doc

But the thrust of the foregoing analysis is not just

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But the thrust of the foregoing analysis is not just that juridical discourse constitutes when remorse should be demonstrated but how it should be demonstrated. Through other discursive lenses, it might be important to decide whether feelings of remorse derived from the adverse judgements of the community or from falling short of one’s own moral standards(Taylor, 1985, 98; Tudor, 2001, 127) or whether attempts at suicide or self- infliction of pain or other demonstrations of visible suffering are too self-referential to qualify as expressions of an emotion such as remorse that should be focused more on the victim than on the self. Through the prospect of mercy and moral accreditation but also 33
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the concealed threat of violence, judicial discourse shapes the content of remorse in a way that reflects the context in which it is produced. If it is appreciated that remorse is not just a psychological trait inherent in the individual but rather an attribute that is situated in a specific social context, the impact of juridical discourse on the shaping of remorse becomes all the more comprehensible. The form in which remorse must be expressed is that of submission to a greater power- the moral performances that are validated all have as their common point of reference a posture of abjection and surrender by the offender before the authority of the law. Whether or not these manifestations correspond to actual feelings of shame or guilt, in the population of cases here considered, it is clear that, in extended contests, anything short of unconditional acknowledgement of wrongdoing coupled with severe self-condemnation will not lead to the conferring of the law’s mercy. At the same time, no act engenders greater outrage from the court than outright defiance in which the offender admits responsibility for the act but is indifferent to its wrongfulness. The charge of ‘flagrant contempt’ cited above is for practicing law without having the proper qualifications- outrage at the absence of remorse has far less to do with the gravity of the offence than with the lack of deference that such a stance communicates. Along with the other requisites for a successful moral performance, remorseful offenders must show that they know their place. NOTES 1. I refer to the showing of remorse as a moral performance because, by definition, it is performed in front of an audience, because this audience actively shapes the presentation 34
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by virtue of its power to credit or discredit, and because the crediting or discrediting of this performance contribute to whether the offender is included within or expelled from the moral community. 2. The population of cases was generated by using Lexis/Nexis legal data base of Canadian cases. I did a search of all cases between 2002-2004 inclusive in which remorse or its truncations were mentioned at least five times. The threshold of five was selected to identify those cases in which the concept was sufficiently elaborated to permit analysis.
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