The economic crisis that hit many Asian countries in 1997 has changed the face of Asian politics and business. It contributed to the downfall of many political leaders e.g. President Suharto of Indonesia and the collapse of many corporate giants. The collapse of the East‐Asian and South‐East Asian economies highlighted a crisis of political and corporate governance (International Monetary Fund staff report, 1998). Most of the literature on the crisis has prescribed greater accountability, openness, participation and transparency in political and corporate governance as the solution to the problems of political and corporate governance in Asian countries (International Monetary Fund Staff Report 1998; Economist, 1998). However as highlighted by Velayutham (1999a; b), the assumptions that underlie the dimensions of accountability are inconsistent with Asian values. It is argued that responsibility is discharged in Asian societies through different mechanisms, e.g., shame, purification and sacrifice, that is consistent with collective orientations within Asian societies. In this paper it is argued that Asian societies are facing a crisis of governance and responsibility, and this can be attributed to the lack of development of the moral emotion of guilt and the decline of shame in modern Asian societies. It is pointed out that while guilt was never an important feature of Asian societies, shame was the main moral emotion that contributed to good governance and responsible action in Asian societies. It is then argued that recent change in Asian societies such as the image of gossip in modern society, urbanization, residential mobility, cultural heterogeneity and the obsolescence of the concept of honor have contributed to the slow decline of the moral emotion of shame in Asian societies. The paper concludes with an appeal to the development of communitarianism and reintegration within Asian societies.
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