Scandal is the quintessential public event. Here is the first general and comprehensive analysis of this ubiquitous moral phenomenon. Taking up wide-ranging cases in society, politics, and art, Ari Adut shows when wrongdoings generate scandals and when they do not. He focuses on the emotional and cognitive experience of scandals and the relationships among those who are involved in or exposed to them. This perspective explains variations in the effects, frequency, elicited reactions, outcomes, and strategic uses of scandals. On Scandal offers provocative accounts of the Oscar Wilde, Watergate, and Lewinsky affairs. Adut also employs the lens of scandal to address puzzles and questions regarding public life. Why is American politics plagued by sex scandals? What is the cause of the rise in political scandals in Western democracies? Why were Victorians sometimes very accommodating and other times very intolerant of homosexuality? What is the social logic of hypocrisy? Why has transgression been so central to modern art?
Introduction; 1. The disruptive publicity of transgression; 2. The fall of Oscar Wilde; 3. The American presidency, imperial and imperiled; 4. Investigating corruption in France; 5. Sex and the American public sphere; 6. Provocation in art; Conclusion.
"...intellectually worthwhile and entertaining." - Publishers Weekly
"The popular way of treating scandals in the media is partisan or prurient and sensationalist. Ari Adut’s book On Scandal cuts in another direction. He is analytical and comparative, showing the conditions under which various kinds of scandals occur or do not occur. Adut’s work will illuminate the reader in the advance of sociological understanding. It is both an intellectual pleasure and a pleasure to read. It opens contentious events to the sociological eye with great clarity. The book will make its readers scandal-sophisticates." - Randall Collins, Dorothy Swaine Professor in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
"Ari Adut tells us better than any scholar before him how scandals work. His case studies of scandals in politics and in art, of sex and of money and of taste, from the U.S., the U.K., and France, all give weight to a study that is sociologically original, subtle, and illuminating." - Michael Schudson, Columbia School of Journalism, author of The Good Citizen
"Historians and journalists have long written about particular scandals but have rarely reflected about scandal in general. In this brilliant and very readable book, Ari Adut subjects scandal to a penetrating sociological gaze, revealing its repeated dynamics and its potent force as an agent of social and cultural change. This is sociology at its most illuminating." - William Sewell, Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and History Emeritus, University of Chicago
"Scandal has arisen for centuries and has always involved publicizing and stigmatizing moral transgression. In a wide-ranging historical and contemporary analysis, Ari Adut shows, however, that the central offenses around which scandal arises change and vary both dramatically and systematically. Read Adut for shock value if you wish, but read him especially for a major contribution to the analysis of public moral sensibility." - Viviana A. Zelizer, Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology, Princeton University, author of The Purchase of Intimacy
"Historians of nineteenth-century Britain and twentieth-century France and the United States should be provoked, positively, by this thoroughly interdisciplinary treatment of Oscar Wilde's time, French political corruption, Watergate, and Monica Lewinsky."
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, RIR