The Blame Business

The Uses and Misuses of Accountability

Stephen Fineman

The Blame Business

Stephen Fineman

Distributed for Reaktion Books

160 pages | 5 x 7 3/4 | © 2015
Paper $24.95 ISBN: 9781780234380 Published May 2015 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $24.95 ISBN: 9781780234588 Published March 2015
Whenever anything goes wrong our first instinct is often to find someone to blame. Blame infuses our society in myriad ways, seeding rancor and revenge, dividing lovers, coworkers, communities, and nations. Yet blame, appropriately placed and managed, safeguards moral order and legal culpability. In this book, Stephen Fineman explores this duality inherent in blame, taking us on a fascinating journey across blame’s sometimes bitter—sometimes just—landscape.
Fineman focuses on blame’s roots and enduring manifestations, from the witch hunts of the past to today’s more buttoned-up scapegoating and stigmatization; from an individual’s righteous anger to entire cultures shaped by its power. Addressing our era of increasing unease about governance in public and private enterprises, he delves behind the scenes of organizations infected with blame, profiling the people who keep its plates spinning. With a critical eye, he examines the vexing issue of public accountability and the political circus that so often characterizes our politicians and corporations lost in their “blame games.”

Ultimately, Fineman raises the challenging question of how we might mitigate blame’s corrosive effects, asking crucial and timely questions about the limits of remorse and forgiveness, the role of state apologies for historical wrongdoings, whether restorative justice can work, and many other topics. An absorbing look at something we all know intimately, this book deepens our understanding of blame and how it shapes our lives.


1. Why Do We Blame?

2. Panics Old and New

3. Blame Cultures

4. Blaming the Organization

5. The Empires Strike Back

6. Blame Government

7. I’m Sorry

8. From Blame to Restoration

A Final Thought: The Trouble with Blame





Review Quotes
Yiannis Gabriel, School of Management, University of Bath
The Blame Business unsettles the reader with a number of very disconcerting questions and comes up with some even more disturbing answers. Ours has become a society that thirsts for blame, breathes blame, and is blinded by blame. It is little wonder that it has turned blame into a flourishing business. But at what cost? This is a book that makes us look at blame with fresh eyes.” 
Cynthia Hardy, University of Melbourne, Australia
“Readers will come to understand blame more profoundly, gaining deeper and richer insights about what it means to individuals to blame and to be blamed.” 
Tim Lang, City University London
“Blaming the other makes us feel good. It absolves us from responsibility. ‘How much are we really in control?’ asks Fineman in this erudite and thoughtful book. To prevent Salem-type witch hunts and their modern equivalents, we need institutions and culture to hardwire just ways of apologising, learning, and restoring. A big task, beautifully outlined here.” 
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