Deep Stories, Emotional Agendas and Politics By Arlie Hochschild

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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, lie 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

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.

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

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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:

Just In Print: Power and Emotion (Routledge)

Power and emotion cover


I am delighted to announce that a collection of papers edited by myself and Prof. Helena Flam on the theme of emotions and power is just out today. This collection originally appeared as a special issue of the Journal of Political Power in 2013, but was chosen by Routledge to be reissued as part of their ‘special issue as book‘ series.  It is available for purchase from Amazon (UK now, US in October), Routledge, the Book Depository and elsewhere, but would make an excellent addition to your institutional library (recommendation form here).

The book includes some very high quality chapters that deploy and interrogate the concepts of emotion and power across a wide array of topics and issues, from some of the leading international researchers on these topics. The quality and diversity on show recommend this publication to a variety scholars, but especially those interested in the sociology of emotions, questions of social and political power, political sociology, organization studies, media studies, education, and political and social theory more generally.

The list of chapters and authors is:

Heaney, J.G. ‘Emotions and power: a bifocal prescription to cure theoretical myopia’.

Flam, H. ‘The transnational movement for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation as an emotional (rule) regime?’.

Simpson, A.V., Clegg, S.R., Freeder, D. ‘Compassion, power and organization’.

Barbalet, J., Qi, X. ‘The paradox of power: conceptions of power and the relations of reason and emotion in European and Chinese culture’.

Wettergren, Å., Jansson, A.‘Emotions, power and space in the discourse of “People of the Real World”’.

Baker, S.A., Rowe, D. ‘The power of popular publicity: new social media and the affective dynamics of the sport racism scandal’. 

Martin, J.‘A feeling for democracy? Rhetoric, power and the emotions’.

Zembylas, M.‘Memorial ceremonies in schools: analyzing the entanglement of emotions and power’.

Procter, L. ‘Emotions, power and schooling: the socialisation of “angry boys”.

The blurb reads:

This collection is concerned with two fundamental concepts of social science– power and emotion. Power permeates all human relationships and is constitutive of social, economic, and political life. It stands at the centre of social and political theorizing, and its study has enriched scholarship within a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, political science, philosophy, and anthropology. The conceptual cluster of emotion, by contrast, had a more troubled time within these same disciplines. However, since the 1970’s and the advent of the ‘emotional turn’, there has been a widespread re-evaluation of emotion in and for our shared social existence and, today, emotions research is at forefront of contemporary social science. Yet, although both concepts are now widely seen as fundamental, research on these two phenomena has tended to run in parallel.

This collection, featuring leading international scholars, seeks to unite and deploy both concepts, emotion and power, in a variety of ways, and on a diverse array of topics such as: education, organizations, social movements, politics, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, rhetoric and in comparative intellectual history. The results are at the bleeding edge of scholarship on these concepts, and will make important reading for practitioners and students working in the sociology of emotions, social and political power, political sociology, organization studies, and for sociological and political theory more generally.

This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Political Power.

Please share widely!


Kari Norgaard — Living in Denial

In this excellent talk, recorded in 2013, Kari Norgaard offers a wonderful and concise overview of her well known book on the sociology of climate change Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (2011). What is most interesting, from my perspective, is the way that she deploys conceptions of both emotion (specifically: guilt, fear of the future, and helplessness) with questions of power and power relations (especially Lukes’ notion of 3D power) in her analysis to explain how knowledge of climate change is negotiated, and denied, in everyday life. Drawing on ethnographic data from fieldwork in Norway, Norgaard shows how this power-emotion nexus is fundamentally social, and constitutive of the social organization of climate denial. Both the book and this short (36m) lecture are well work checking out.

Via Youtube:

In her lecture, professor Kari Norgaard uses interviews and ethnographic data from a community in western Norway during the unusually warm winter of 2000-2001 to describe how knowledge of climate change is experienced in everyday life. Stories in local and national newspapers linked the warm winter explicitly to global warming. Yet residents did not write letters to the editor, pressure politicians, or cut down on the use of fossil fuels. Norgaard describes the disturbing emotions of guilt, helplessness and fear of the future that arose when people were confronted with the idea of climate change — and then builds a model of socially organized denial to describe how people normalized these disturbing emotions through the deployment of conversation norms and discourses that served as “tools of social order.” Using literature from sociology of emotions, environmental sociology and sociology of culture, she describes “the social organization of climate denial” through multiple levels, from emotions to cultural norms to political economy.

The lectures shared here were given on October 5th 2013 in the following order:

Guðni Elísson: “Earth101”

Stefan Rahmstorf: “The Climate Crisis”

Michael Mann: “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

Kari Norgaard: “Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life”

Peter Sinclair: “Communicating Climate Science in the Disinformation Era”

Recorded by Phil Coates and edited by Ryan Chapman.

41st SAI Annual Conference May 10th 2014: Call for Papers



The 41st Annual Conference of the SAI will be held at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street on May 10th 2014. This will be an open conference with no prescribed theme. This one day conference will focus on high quality papers and presentations with time for discussion and debate.

This year’s conference will also feature a Plenary Roundtable on ‘Teaching Sociology’. Speakers include Dr. Daniel Fass (TCD, Provost Teaching Award 2012), Dr. Amanda Haynes (UL, Excellence in Teaching Award 2005 & 2011) and Dr. Rebecca King O’Riain (NUIM,

You may submit an abstract from two different forms of presentation:

1. Ordinary Paper (300 words)

2. Poster Presentation (200 words)

Those wishing to present a paper at the conference should submit an abstract as a Word attachment by email to: no later than Friday 14th March 2014

Submissions will be reviewed and authors notified by Friday 28th March 2014.

Further details on abstract submission and more below the fold.

Continue reading “41st SAI Annual Conference May 10th 2014: Call for Papers”

Prof. Philip Pettit at NUI Galway: public lecture and reading group

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Prof.Philip Pettit of Princeton University will give a public lecture on the theme of justice and democracy in NUI Galway at 4pm on 17 June. The venue is the SAC Room in the Cairnes Building. The talk is organised by the Power, Conflict & Ideologies Research Cluster of the School of Political Science & Sociology. A reading group run by the cluster will meet to discuss Prof Pettit’s work in the approach to his visit. Interested colleagues from other Schools (and other institutions) are welcome to join the group, but ask that they contact either myself (, Dr. Jenny Dagg ( or Dr.Niall Ó Dochartaigh ( so we can keep track of numbers/room size etc.

We have initially scheduled two meetings:

1. Thursday 13 March, 2pm

Venue: Room 306, , Aras Moyola, NUI Galway

 2. Monday 7 April, 1pm

Venue: Room 306, Aras Moyola, NUI Galway

The reading for the first meeting is Freedom as Anti-Power’ (1996 pdf), which offers a general overview and introduction to his influential approach to normative, neo-republican political theory, and his conception of freedom as non-domination in particular.  In the second meeting we will discuss his new book On the People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2012), in which this framework is reasserted and refined, and turned to questions of political legitimacy, social justice and democracy.  If you are interested in getting a flavour of the arguments and style of this later work there are videos of lectures that he did in Frankfurt in 2012 available here.  There is also an excellent audio interview about the new book (and his life in general) available on the New Books in Philosophy website.

If you would like to join the meetings of the reading group or would like further information please email either myself or Niall.

Speaker bio:

Philipp Pettit, originally from Ballygar Co. Galway, is L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, where he teaches philosophy and political theory.  Among his books are The Common Mind (1996), Republicanism (1997), The Economy of Esteem (2004), with G. Brennan; Made with Words (2008); A Political Philosophy in Public Life, with JL Marti (2010); and Group Agency (2011) with C. List. Common Minds: Themes from the Philosophy of Philip Pettit, ed G.Brennan et al, appeared from OUP in 2007.  Professor Pettit is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as of academies in his two countries of citizenship: Ireland and Australia.  His most recent book On the People’s Terms (2012) is published with Cambridge University Press. It is based on the 2009 Albertus Magnus Lectures in Cologne, and the 2010 Seeley lectures in Cambridge.

Special Issue: Emotions & Power

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Just a quick note to announce that a special issue of the Journal of Political Power, edited by myself and Prof. Helena Flam, is now available online. The theme of the special issue is emotions and power, and the issue contains some new and exciting social science research addressing these two concepts from a variety of perspectives. We have chosen eight papers that address both concepts, emotion and power in a variety of settings, including education, work organizations, social movements, politics, ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, rhetoric and in comparisons in the conceptualization of some core concepts between ‘the West’ and ‘the East’. The diversity of subjects and approaches in evidence in the papers testifies both to the ubiquity of power and emotions in all areas of social life in general, and the importance and illumination gained from exploring these concepts together. The list of contributions, with links, is below. There are a handful of free access eprints to my introduction still available, but the rest of the articles are behind a paywall for now. If anyone wants me to email one or other of the papers just PM or leave a comment.

Heaney, J.G. (2013) ‘Emotions and power: a bifocal prescription to cure theoretical myopia’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 355–362.

Flam, H. (2013) ‘The transnational movement for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation as an emotional (rule) regime?’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 363–383.

Simpson, A.V., Clegg, S.R., Freeder, D. (2013) ‘Compassion, power and organization’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 385–404.

Barbalet, J., Qi, X. (2013) ‘The paradox of power: conceptions of power and the relations of reason and emotion in European and Chinese culture’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 405–418.

Wettergren, Å., Jansson, A. (2013) ‘Emotions, power and space in the discourse of “People of the Real World”’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 419–439.

Baker, S.A., Rowe, D. (2013) ‘The power of popular publicity: new social media and the affective dynamics of the sport racism scandal’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 441–460.

Martin, J. (2013) ‘A feeling for democracy? Rhetoric, power and the emotions’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 461–476.

Zembylas, M. (2013) ‘Memorial ceremonies in schools: analyzing the entanglement of emotions and power’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 477–493.

Procter, L. (2013) ‘Emotions, power and schooling: the socialisation of “angry boys”’, Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 495–510.

‘Walled States, Waning Sovereignty’ Professor Wendy Brown, CCIG Keynote Lecture

I am affiliated with the wonderfully named ‘power cluster’ in the School of Political Science & Sociology at NUI Galway.  This occasionally makes me feel like a superhero. This intrepid group, somewhere on a scale between the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, meets once a month to discuss work related to our own research interests that has some relation to the notion of power, broadly defined.  This month we are reading the first chapter from Prof. Wendy Brown‘s recent book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).  The lecture posted here basically covers the same ground.  Her argument is that the proliferation of walls and walling that we are witnessing worldwide, such as ‘The Wall’ separating Israel and Palestine  or the one on the US-Mexico Border, is a feature of contemporary globalization and (paradoxically, despite the theatrical show of physical dominance that such walls might symbolize) signals the waning of sovereignty for the nation-state.  These walls are not built to defend states from other national actors but rather to target nonstate, transnational actors, such as migrants and ‘terrorist’ groups etc.  For Brown, who wishes to differentiate her argument from Agamben (Homo Sacer) and Hardt and Negri (Empire), key to the loss of this national sovereignty are the domination of free-floating global capital and ‘God-sanctioned political violence’.  Rather than being a sign of nation-state dominance, these walls actually represent a deep-seated national anxiety about increasing sovereign impotence and an aspect of  the ‘theater state’ (though she does not mention Geertz here).  What is perhaps most interesting is her discussion of the ‘state of emergency’/’state of exception’, always provisional and temporary, yet a perpetual and seemingly permanent feature of the contemporary world.  This, of course, is well-trodden ground, particularly by (again) Agamben, following Schmitt.  But this is perhaps where I  also part company with Brown and her analysis of the waning of the nation-state, which may be a little over-stated.  Is it not the case that, for Schmitt, this discourse of the state of exception, or more specifically, the capacity or power to declare a state of exception is central to the notion of state sovereignty.  Far from being a sign of a weakened nation-state, is this capacity not a sure sign of the state’s enduring power?  And one which is exercised, when it is exercised (power is a capacity and should not be confused with it’s exercise), often in the face of vocal international opposition, such as in the case of Israel.

In any case, I enjoyed the chapter and hope to finish the book.  Enjoy the talk.