Stigma, shame and the experience of poverty in Japan and the United Kingdom

Eileen Sutton, Simon Pemberton, Eldin Fahmy, Yuko Tamiya

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Whilst stigma and shame are central features of the experience of poverty in capitalist societies, we know relatively little about crucial aspects of these phenomena, particularly how these experiences differ according to variety of capitalist formation. This article draws on the available empirical literature to examine these relational aspects of poverty in two very different societies, the UK and Japan. Through comparing these literatures, we are able to comment on the ways in which stigma is manifest in differing social, personal and institutional contexts and, therefore, is internalised as shame in similar and divergent forms in these respective societies. We note the very different social values and forms of welfare that constitute these societies which are at times responsible for contrasting experiences of shame, yet conclude that stigma and shame perform important functions within capitalist societies as a means to legitimate the continued existence of poverty within these social systems, and are therefore universal phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number01
Early online date25 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Stigma
  • shame
  • poverty
  • social exclusion


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