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Session Overview
RN11_01a_P: Theorizing Affect and Emotion I
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Jonathan G. Heaney, Queen's University Belfast
Location: PB.1.4
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 1.

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Theorising ‘the emotions’

Leonidas Tsilipakos

Aston University, United Kingdom

Over the past couple of decades the study of human emotion has received focused attention within disciplines as diverse as cognitive neuroscience and sociology. Whereas research advances in neuroscience (e.g. Damasio 1994; but see Bennett and Hacker 2013 and Kenny 2013[1963])) have been predicated on increasing technologically mediated access to the human brain, interest in the emotions within sociology (e.g. Burkitt 1997, 2015; Holmes 2010; Fox 2015) has been premised on a different rationale, namely on claims that the emotions have been previously neglected by sociologists or that there persists a dualistic conception of reason vs the emotions which needs to be undone. This paper will provide some critical reflection on the way in which the ‘affective turn’ has been conducted so far. It will begin from the observation that the category of ‘the emotions’ is not conceptually homogeneous, a fact which bears the implication that a robust sociological research programme needs to be based on careful theorising of each particular emotion. Furthermore, the paper will seek to foreground the lines of similarity and difference between various emotions, offering in the process a range of criteria which can sharpen up our understanding. Finally, the paper will attempt to answer the question of what is being studied when ‘the emotions’ are being studied sociologically.

The Relationship between Emotions and Rationalities in Society

Florian Kreutzer

HdBA University of Applied Labour Studies, Germany

My presentation offers – using exemplary material with reference to the conference topic – a theoretical framework regarding the relationship of emotions and rationalities in society in three steps: First, I will link emotions and rationalities to perceptions and communications respectively and define both within a dialectics of identity and difference. Emotions will be defined as the reflexivity of perceptions in terms of differentiated identities; rationalities will be defined as the reflexivity of communications in terms of differences that make a difference. After having analytically distinguished perception/ emotion and communication/ rationality I am going to show in a second step how they are inseparably interlinked in each social situation and action. Using the medium-form theory of Niklas Luhmann perceptions/ emotions and communications/ rationalities will be conceptualized as the two sides of any social action and situation. Finally, I will develop a social phenomenology as a theory of observation that is able to analyse perceptions/ emotions as essential phenomena of social entities as much as we are able to conceptualize communicative self-reflexivity as a condition of individual rationality. From this point of view perceptions/ emotions are observable phenomena of social situations – on the level of interactions, organisations, groups and societies – that are linked to, but cannot be reduced to individual perceptions/ emotions. The medium-form theory together with the dialectics of identity and difference offers a concept interlinking perceptions/ emotions with communications/ rationalities on the one hand and individual and social perceptions/ communications with emotions/ rationalities on the other hand – without dissolving the analytical distinction by reducing it to the one or the other side.

Emotions in judicial decision-making – a review

Moa Bladini1, Stina Bergman Blix2

1University of Gothenburg, Sweden; 2Stockholm university, Sweden

The literature on emotions in law has grown rapidly during the last years, one important aspect being the role of emotions in judicial decision-making. Traditionally, the view of the process of judicial decision-making presumably involves putting emotions aside, but a plethora of studies from several disciplines have shown the importance of emotions for rational decision-making. Emotional processes orient rational action, facilitate complex choices and indicate appropriate behaviour to reach desired goals. The aim of this paper is two-folded; to review and critically appraise previous research on emotions in judicial decision-making conducted by researchers from a range of disciplines; and to add to a theoretical framework that takes forward the study of rational decision-making in judicial practice. Previous research has often narrowed in on specific emotions or some particular aspect, while we focus on a more general level. Specifically, the concepts of epistemic and backgrounded emotions are used to scrutinize the social embeddedness and situatedness of judicial decision-making. Since legal decision-making serves as the quintessence of rational decision-making this framework can presumably be of applied relevance in the understanding of professional decision-making outside of the legal context.

Cynical reason and comfortable continuity – an emotion sociological theory

Åsa Wettergren

University of Gothenburg, Sweden

The paper explores Zizek’s notion of ‘cynical reason’ as entry to a theoretical understanding of how emotions anchor ideology in the self. Cynical reason denotes knowing that in our actions we follow an illusion, and still, we are doing it. In the first part, drawing on the radical perspective that emotion/reason are inseparably intertwined, emotion’s link to situated action is illustrated by a model of four ideal-types of emotion management. The model combines the dimensions: 1. Emotion as conducive/disruptive to ongoing action; and 2. Emotion management/emotion as backgrounded/foregrounded (subconscious/conscious). Next, emotion as constitutive molding flows between structure and agency, context and self, is explored. Inspired by Margret Archer’s theory of the inner conversation, I argue that ideology – understood through the discourse theoretical lens as constructive meaning-making – becomes embodied performance through the backgrounded calibration of the self in time and in relation to others. Not only is ideology anchored in the self through emotion, but emotion anchors the self in ideology. Analogous with Collin’s emotional energy (EE) as common denominator of rational action, comfortable continuity (CC) of the self functions as background EE. Contrary to Collins’ EE, however, CC does not orient the self towards maximizing EE. CC orients towards keeping EE in balance – consistent with the feeling of ‘authentic me’. This explains both the emergence of cynical reason and its rational existential necessity. In conclusion, I discuss CC as the emotional meaning of Hochshild’s ‘deep story’ and the possibility that its disruption accounts for the current crisis of liberal democracy.

Key words: comfortable continuity, emotion, reason, self, cynical reason

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