In the international world of the social sciences, we note a widespread trend towards a reassessment of the role of emotions and feelings both in empirical work and also in the schematic explanations and theorizations concerning their role in our varying disciplines (in history through references to a possible “emotional turn”; in geography too, through highlighting emotivity in socio-spatial life; in philosophy, through delving into the role of desire in the formation of ideas and political passions; in neuroscience, through probing the sources of conscience and free will; and in psychology or psychoanalysis as well ….). In the field of political science, Philippe Braud explored this perspective concerning elections and then gradually expanded the spectrum till his recent work on anger in crowd behaviour and its long-term effects on moral and emotional engagement, opening up fruitful research avenues on such diverse objects as democracy, violence, power and identities (Sommeiller Crettiez 2012). The thematic of emotions is now the subject of specific research in political science, with, for example, studies undertaken on collective mobilization by Christophe Traïni and on the sentimental citizen by George Marcus, or several works in sociology about the passionate dimension of power, in psychology about revolts, in historiographical research on the violence of exchanges in parliamentary settings…
This effervescent scholarly activity highlights ways in which emotions influence, guide and sometimes structure political behaviour and happenings. Given the heterogeneity of methods and concepts used in this field, our intention in proposing this theme has been to open up a « dialogue » to connect the fields of specialized and little-known knowledge, to take stock of the different intellectual traditions and to undertake the worthwhile exercise of establishing potential convergences and stimulating intellectual innovation. Three avenues for future research have been proposed, the first concerning processes of mobilization and political socialization, the second concerning passions expressed within leadership and the practice of power, and the third concerning public policy and the construction of grand narratives concerning the common good.
The focus of the fields to be explored remains deliberately open-ended and wide in scope, embracing such diverse items as personal as well as political speeches, controversies in public policy analysis, representation and voting behaviour. It also looks at different political moments: the seizure of power, types of self-presentation, ways of tackling disputes or managing discussion. 30 proposals have been selected, which illustrate the variety of perceptions of the issue but also reflect the shared interest in establishing scientific perspectives on the politics of emotion. Six countries will also be represented, with a good parity between men and women, professors, researchers and young researchers, doctoral and post-doctoral students.
These communications address, in varying ways, the double issue of emotion as a dimension of politics and/or as an instrument of politicization. The first meaning considers emotion as an essential element of politics that the social sciences and humanities have failed to take sufficiently into account. The second considers emotion in a more instrumental, but also more contextual perspective. To this dual use corresponds a series of oppositions that our exchanges will both promote and also question: emotion as archaism or modernity; essence or instrumentalization; individualization or common good; exacerbating or reducing conflict? Given the number of selected participants, the papers will not be presented by their authors, but synthesized and discussed in critical sessions with contributions from key analysts. To promote this form of discussion, contributors of papers have been asked to write their communications by detailing their empirical case and specifying the theoretical framework and suggesting links made possible or desirable between different analytical traditions. Although the hypothesis of an « emotional turn » is far from being validated in the fields of political science and political sociology, our thematic section’s objective is to initiate a collective work resolutely introspective and exploratory into this world of emotions that forms an integral part of the world of politics.