ABSTRACT

Take a moment to consider a day in your life, just any ordinary and average day that does not deviate considerably from the rest. During such an ordinary and average day, you are destined to experience and encounter multiple different emotions – some high, some low and some just somewhere in-between. Emotions such as happiness, joy, trust, envy, pride, love, sadness, bravery, shame, laziness, boredom, guilt, excitement, despair, fear, anxiety, nostalgia, depression, indignation, disgust, frustration, pity, ecstasy, loneliness, hate, jealousy, humiliation, hope, relief and desire (even indifference and numbness are in fact emotional experiences) will almost inevitably be part of such a normal day in your life. In other words, they are some of the many different emotions we live by. As Robert C. Solomon so emphatically has testified: ‘We live in and through our emotions. Our lives do not just include episodes of anger, fear, love, grief, gratitude, happiness, humor, shame, guilt, embarrassment, envy, resentment and vengeance. Our lives are defined by such emotions’ (Solomon 2007 :10, italics in original). If this is indeed true, then the entirely unemotional human being must be the invention of fiction. In real life as it is lived, most people, most of the time – even though they might be unable discursively to describe or articulate their specific feelings and emotions – will have and recognize different emotional sensations and experiences running through body and mind. Emotionless individuals are something to be found only in works of fiction or science fiction such as, for example, in the 2002 film Equilibrium that depicts a future social order in which all emotions are deemed illegal and hence are something – however unsuccessfully – to be entirely eradicated. Such a futuristic vision of a world without emotions is indeed difficult to imagine, not least because to most people their own emotions as well as those of others are such important – if not downright indispensable – dimensions of their lives, their relationships, their actions and their identities. However, not only on the individual level are emotions important. They also play a significant role in and constitute some of the most important building blocks of larger social formations such as families, friendship groups, local communities, nation states, international alliances and coalitions, groups of adversaries and archenemies, social movements and all the other more or less stable, more or less close and more or less lasting ties that either bind individuals, groups, communities or nations together or set them apart. Emotions, it thus seems, are everywhere. If we were to use conventional sociological terminology, then we might be able convincingly to claim that emotions are important factors on the micro, meso as well as the macro level of social life.