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Editor's Choice

Emotions seem increasingly to mark political movements and discourse. Anger, fear and sadness have, to varying degrees, been implicated in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the rise of Trump, on the one hand, and the persistence of Black Lives Matter and the impact of the Me Too movement, on the other. A philosophical tradition that stretches from Plato to Martha Nussbaum has urged us to keep negative emotions like anger and jealousy out of politics, and to instead nurture positive ones, like love and compassion. Yet, that must be confounding to minorities, the poor and other marginalized groups, whose political claims frequently originate in negative emotions and take the form of emotional expressions. Indeed, their marginalization and attendant suffering has been exacerbated by processes, such as medicalization, which prompt individuals to think of their anger, fear and other painful emotions as personal problems to be dealt with in the medical or some other ostensibly apolitical sphere. But not everyone believes negative emotions must be kept out of politics. Some feminists have long defended the political value of anger. And, more recently, such thinkers as Judith Butler and Deborah Gould have highlighted the politically empowering and constructive role that other negative emotions can play as well. Moreover, a series of methodological discussions on the importance of affect have brought the role of emotions in research into sharp focus. But whether these newer perspectives can survive the popular trend of blaming our contemporary political problems on passions like anger and fear remains to be seen.

This Editor’s Choice contains three pieces on the place of emotions in politics from second issue of volume 10. First, Dan Degerman introduces the politics of negative emotions, outlining the reasons for such a comprehensive examination of the topic in the issue he has guest edited. This leads into ‘For love and for life: emotional dynamics at the World Congress of Families’ by Sara Kalm and Anna Meuwisse. This article applies the theoretical and sociological work on social movements to analyse first-hand observations from the 2019 conference of the World Congress of Families, a prominent international right-wing organization, and the theory of social movements. This sheds new light on the relationship between emotions and political agency. Written by a political scientist and sociologist, both senior academics in Sweden, it reflects both the methodological and the international scope of this issues. The final selection is ‘Moving between frustration and anger’ by Mary Carman. Much recent scholarship on the philosophy of political emotions focuses on anger. While acknowledging the political importance of anger, this article argues that too little attention has been paid to frustration, its connection to anger, and its moral and political importance. Focusing primarily on the South African Student Protests of 2019 and drawing upon a range of contemporary philosophical work on anger, it articulates an original account of the political role of frustration. This article outlines the important philosophical contributions included in the double issue and underlines further its global scope.


The following Global Discourse Editor's Choice articles are free to access until 31 July 2020.

Introduction: negative emotions in dark times
Author: Dan Degerman 

For love and for life: emotional dynamics at the World Congress of Families
Authors: Sara Kalm and Anna Meeuwisse

Moving between frustration and anger
Author: Mary Carman

See also: Volume 8, Number 4, October 2018 our free sample issue.

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