Emotions, it is often said, has no place in politics. Where the former is thought to be primal and unruly, the latter is regarded as the realm of reason, of pragmatic and thoughtful deliberations. But how accurate is such a view? Don’t emotions typically accompany our political judgments and actions? Might they perhaps condition such responses, priming them and orienting us towards certain political attitudes and dispositions? What do we mean, for example, when we say “I love my country” or “I am afraid of a terrorist attack”? What relationships are produced in the emotions ‘love’ and ‘fear’? What assumptions and elisions are implied in the drawing together of ‘love’ with ‘country’ and, conversely, ‘fear’ with ‘terrorist attack’?
This module explores the ways in which emotions circulate within political life, paying attention to both their deployment and work. Rather than ask ‘what emotion is?’, we ask ‘what do emotions do?’
We begin with a brief introduction to the dominant approaches to emotions before turning to the roles emotion play in political life. Specifically, we look at how emotions 1) orient notions of the common good in political life; 2) shape governance against the backdrop of a ‘War on Terror’; and 3) constitute our political identities and commitments.