Deep Stories, Emotional Agendas and Politics By Arlie Hochschild

hochschild esa

I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 12th European Sociological Association Conference in Prague last August, where Prof. Arlie Hochschild (Berkeley) gave one of the plenaries at the opening of the event.

I really enjoyed the paper then, and a video of the plenary has been uploaded to the ESA website here.

The talk reflects, and reflects on, Hochschild’s recent interest in the connections between emotions and politics, and especially political persuasion, which intersect with my own ongoing interest in the linkages between emotions and power, and my new project on (what I am calling) the ’emotional state’. The talk here emerges from her recent work in the American South (especially Louisiana), and the interviews she conducted with members of the right there.

In the presentation, while of course foregrounding emotions and emotion management (to which literature in the sociology of emotions Hochschild has already made substantial, indeed, seminal, contributions to), she introduces a new concept of ‘deep stories’. These are  allegorical, collective and honour-focused stories that, she suggests, lies behind the growth of the right (especially the Tea Party) in the US (and presumably in Europe too). These stories and the emotional logic behind them, will help us to better understand the contemporary political polarization that is emerging in tandem with the increase in social inequality. They will also help us  to understand what it feels like to be a ‘Mary Beth’, and, rather than retreating to our own ideological silos, that we might be able to understand them, and each other, a bit better. It might also help to reaffirm the role of ‘honour’ in social and political processes. The social importance and explanatory value of a political sociology of emotions is here again underlined.  These themes will be explored further in her forthcoming book Strangers in Their Own Land: A Journey into the Heart of the Right. I will suspend judgement until I read that full treatment but the concepts here are certainly interesting. Sitting here in Belfast as I write this, I can, for instance, see some scope for the deployment of ‘deep stories’ in trying to understand the emotional logic of politics here too.

The abstract for the talk is below.

I begin with a paradox. In the United States, as in Europe, the gap between rich and poor has recently widened. At the same time, right-wing groups have risen for whom such a gap poses no problem at all. Based on new fieldwork on the U.S. Tea Party (approved by some 20% -30% of Americans) I ask: what emotional needs does such a movement meet? More basically, how does emotion underlie political belief? In answer I propose the concept of a deep story. It’s an allegorical, collectively shared, honor-focused, “feels-as-if” story. A man is standing in line for a ticket he feels he greatly deserves and which confers honor. At the front of the line is another man behind a dark glass window handing out tickets. In front and in back are others in line. To the side, is an official supervisor of the line. Then some people “cut into” the front of the line, and the story moves from there. Tickets are for the American Dream. The supervisor is the American president, and a rumor is flying that tickets are running out. They – and all of us — see through allegory. And once established, we protect it by pursuing an emotional agenda. This determines what a person wants to feel and know. Liberals have a deep story too. Each story – that of conservative and liberal — implies a strategy of action for addressing global capitalism, and the frightening idea that American –and European –dominance and prosperity may be a “prophecy that fails.” The idea of “deep stories” may help us communicate across a widening political divide and address the issues of difference, inequality –with imagination and compassion

Zygmunt Bauman: ”Liquid Modernity revisited”

In the introduction to my new Global Society class in QUB today I mentioned Bauman’s work on Liquid Modernity in the context of debates on globalization. In this lecture, given in Aarhus in 2012, he gives a useful overview of his approach to some of these issues, which (my own) students especially might find interesting.


Living in and coping with world risk society – Ulrich Beck

In this talk (from a few years ago, 2011 I think), sociologist Ulrich Beck outlines and updates his theory of reflexive modernization and the ‘risk society’. He suggests that, to the extent that risk is experienced as omnipresent in the current age, there are only three possible reactions: denial, apathy or transformation. The first, he says, ‘is largely inscribed in modern culture, the second resembles post-modern nihilism, the third is the “cosmopolitan moment” of world risk society’.

In the talk that follows he structures his argument around three key points. In  the first he outlines the distinctive, new features of this world risk society. There is a distinction between risk and catastrophe – they are not the same things. Risk is about the anticipation of catastrophe. This is why, despite the fact that Europe and ‘The West’ are relatively safe, globally speaking, or perhaps even ‘objectively’ so, it is the global anticipation of catastrophe (propagated via symbolic forms in the mass media etc) that is fundamental to the shaping of contemporary societies. These global perceptions of risk have three features: de-localization ( in spatial, temporal and social terms), incalculableness, and non-compensatibility.

His second key point stresses the fundamentally global character of these process, over and against the nation-state as a political level of analysis, and transformative action. Against this methodological nationalism he offers a defence of his cosmopolitan vision for the social sciences, outlined in more detail in his Power and the Global Age (2005). His final point offers some consequences of his position, in general, and a (sympathetic) critique of alternative theoretical conceptions of risk, most notably those of Mary Douglas and Michel Foucault. What is needed is a paradigm shift in the social sciences – the emergence of a cosmopolitan social science – a ‘cosmopolitan turn’.

This defence of cosmopolitanism – his cosmopolitical realpolitik –  is, of course, open to many criticisms and questions, as are his wider arguments about risk, decision-making etc.  There are some questions/discussion after 26 mins or so.

Irish Journal of Sociology UK Regional Editor 2015-16 Call for Applications

Irish Journal of Sociology UK Regional Editor 2015-16 Call for Applications

Deadline for Applications:
30 November 2014, 17:00 (GMT)

The Irish Journal of Sociology (IJS)is seeking to recruit a second UK Regional Editor to serve a 2-year term from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2016 (serving alongside the current UK Regional Editor, Dr. Lucy Michael, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland).

About the Journal

The Irish Journal of Sociology is an international peer-reviewed core journal, founded in 1991. Published twice a year (May and November), it is the official journal of the national sociological association, the Sociological Association of Ireland (SAI), and is published by Manchester University Press. The purpose of the journal is to stimulate and communicate sociological research about Irish society as well as to publish high-quality papers, reflecting the theoretical, substantive, and methodological range of the discipline, that are not related to Ireland. It also publishes solicited book reviews, research notes, and articles in four new in-brief sections (archives, databases, debates, and trends). The current editor is Dr. Brian Conway (Maynooth University, Ireland). For more detail, see

About the UK Regional Editor

The Irish Journal of Sociology UK Regional Editor is an active role, and involves helping to attract submissions, helping to bolster institutional subscriptions, and marketing and increasing the visibility of the journal within the UK. The UK Regional Editor will work alongside the current UK Regional Editor. The UK Regional Editor must be based in a higher education or research institution in England, Scotland or Wales.

Criteria for Application

The UK Regional Editor must fulfill the following criteria:
•       be a SAI member (or join the SAI at the time of their application)
•       hold a PhD degree in sociology
•       be based at a higher education or research institution in the UK mainland
•       have experience of publication in peer-reviewed sociology journals
•       have experience of refereeing for a minimum of 3 peer-reviewed sociology journals

Applications are accepted from any area of speciality within sociology.

How to apply: Please email (with ‘UK Regional Editor application’ as the subject line of your email) your CV and cover letter (outlining how you fulfill the criteria set forth above and why you are applying for the position)to irishjsoc@gmail.comby 30 November 2014, 17:00 (GMT). For further information about the IJS, please contact Dr. Brian Conway, Editor, at

The successful applicant will be notified by email by the 10 December 2014.

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: ASA Junior Theorists Symposium 2015


This has been doing the rounds for a few days now but it is an excellent opportunity for serious, theory-orientated early career sociologists. If they can afford it of course.


2015 Junior Theorists Symposium

Chicago, IL

August 21, 2015


We invite submissions for extended abstracts for the 9th Junior Theorists Symposium (JTS), to be held in Chicago, IL on August 21st, 2015, the day before the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The JTS is a one-day conference featuring the work of up-and-coming theorists, sponsored in part by the Theory Section of the ASA. Since 2005, the conference has brought together early career-stage sociologists who engage in theoretical work.

We are pleased to announce that Patricia Hill Collins (University of Maryland), Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University), and George Steinmetz (University of Michigan) will serve as discussants for this year’s symposium.

In addition, we are pleased to announce an after-panel on “abstraction” featuring Kieran Healy (Duke), Virag Molnar (The New School), Andrew Perrin (UNC-Chapel Hill), and Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago). The panel will examine theory-making as a process of abstraction, focusing on the particular challenge of reconciling abstract “theory” with the concrete complexities of human embodiment and the specificity of historical events.

We invite all ABD graduate students, postdocs, and assistant professors who received their PhDs from 2011 onwards to submit a three-page précis (800-1000 words). The précis should include the key theoretical contribution of the paper and a general outline of the argument. Be sure also to include (i) a paper title, (ii) author’s name, title and contact information, and (iii) three or more descriptive keywords. As in previous years, in order to encourage a wide range of submissions we do not have a pre-specified theme for the conference. Instead, papers will be grouped into sessions based on emergent themes and discussants’ areas of interest and expertise.

Please send submissions to the organizers, Hillary Angelo (New York University) and Ellis Monk (University of Chicago), at with the phrase “JTS submission” in the subject line. The deadline is February 13, 2014. We will extend up to 12 invitations to present by March 13. Please plan to share a full paper by July 27, 2015.

PSAI 2014 Conference Programme

Originally posted on PSAI 2014:

PSAI Annual Conference 2014: Programme 

Last updated 8 October 2014

(Download here)

Day 1: Friday 17 October

13:00: Registration Desk opens

14-15.30 Session 1

1.A Irish Politics 1 (Inishmore)

Chair: Bernadette Connaughton (UL)

Continuity and Change: Civil and Political Rights in (nearly) 100 years of Irish Democracy (Jennifer Kavanagh, WIT)

Evolving Electoral Strategies in Radically Altered Contexts: Longitudinal Evidence from the Dáil (Sean McGraw, University of Notre Dame)

Assessing the Impact of Societal Change on Governmental Representation (Stephen Erskine, TCD)

1.B Northern Ireland: international dimensions (Inishturk)

Chair: Niall O Dochartaigh (NUIG)

The Roman Observer: The Voice of the Holy See on Northern Ireland, 1969 -1998 (Giada Lagana, NUIG)

‘Not what was being said, but that it was said at all’: The significance of the 1977 Carter Statement for the Northern Ireland Peace Process (Alison Meagher, QUB)

Two sides of the same coin? Sinn Fein election campaigns in the North…

View original 1,770 more words

President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative Public Lecture, NUI Galway: Social Equality and Poverty, Prof. Jonathan Wolff (UCL)

jon wolff
Via Dr Richard Hull (NUI Galway)
The discipline of Philosophy (NUI Galway) is delighted to welcome Professor Jonathan Wolff to NUI, Galway, as part of the President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative. He will deliver a public lecture on ‘Social Equality and Poverty’, to which you are warmly invited.
Date: Friday 10th October, 2014.
Time: 4pm.
Venue: Aula Maxima Lower.
Title: ‘Social Equality and Poverty’.
A note about the Lecture:
A society of equals is a society that avoids a range of destructive asymmetrical social relations, including domination, exploitation, snobbery, servility and social exclusion. But how, in the highly unequal societies in which we live, can we begin to make progress on eliminating social inequality? This talk explores how thinking about relative poverty can help illuminate one highly important aspect of social inequality: social exclusion. At the same time reflecting on relative poverty, and the steps people take to overcome it, can help us to understand some of the considerable structural obstacles that stand in the way of achieving a society of equals.
A note about Professor Jonathan Wolff:
Jonathan Wolff is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London. He is the author of several books on political philosophy, including Disadvantage (with Avner de-Shalit) 2007, Ethics and Public Policy 2011, and The Human Right to Health. He has been a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Gambling Review Body, and the Board of Science of the British Medical Association. He writes a regular column on higher education for the Guardian.
We look forward to seeing you there on Friday 10th. For further information contact Dr Richard Hull:

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