New research directions in the philosophy of political myth

In recent years, new approaches to address the role of emotions and the imagination in politics have been developed within the theoretical framework of the philosophy of political myth. The current project aims to use these approaches to examine the political significance of emotions and their distinctive role in the process of social recognition.

 

 

PRIDE AS A POLITICAL EMOTION. TAKING PRIDE AND THE POLITICS OF RECOGNITION BEYOND THE CONFINES OF IDENTITY POLITICS

THE AIM OF THIS PROJECT IS TO EXAMINE THE POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF PRIDE. IN RECENT YEARS, POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY HAS SHOWN INCREASING INTEREST IN THE ROLE OF EMOTIONS IN POLITICS. WHEREAS STRONG EMOTIONS LIKE ANGER, FEAR, RESENTMENT, INDIGNATION, LOVE AND COMPASSION HAVE ALL RECEIVED A GREAT DEAL OF ATTENTION IN RECENT DEBATES, COMPARATIVELY LITTLE WORK HAS BEEN DONE ON INVESTIGATING PRIDE AS A POLITICAL EMOTION. THE CURRENT PROJECT SEEKS TO MAKE UP FOR THIS LACK OF ATTENTION. IT WILL ANALYSE THE DISTINCTIVE POLITICAL POTENTIAL OF THE EMOTION OF PRIDE AND ARGUE WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO TAKE PRIDE SERIOUSLY IN POLITICS.

 

1. RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

The general aim of this project is to make a philosophical inquiry into the political significance of pride. This aim translates into three specific research objectives.

THE FIRST RESEARCH OBJECTIVE is to give a general and consistent philosophical account of the emotion of pride. The main research question (RQ1) is how pride relates to the conception of identity of a person or a social group. The guiding research hypothesis (RH1) is that while pride may be described as an identity-constitutive emotion, it should not necessarily be defined as an identity-derivative one. This hypothesis opens the perspective of analyzing pride beyond the theoretical framework of identity and self-evaluation, and of describing it as an immediate motive force elicited by the imagination rather than by evaluative judgments.

THE SECOND RESEARCH OBJECTIVE is to analyze and describe the specific political potential of the emotion of pride. The main research question (RQ2) is how pride relates to specifically political processes of social commitment and collective action. The guiding research hypothesis (RH2) is that pride may be described as an inherently social and response-focused emotion, soliciting the recognition of others. In combination with the first research hypothesis (RH1), this approach supposes that recognition of others is not so much solicited to confirm one’s identity as a person or member of a social group, as to constitute it. More importantly, it entails the view that demands and struggles for political recognition can spring from entirely different motives than self-assertion and identity formation, such as the desire to maintain or recreate a diverse and thriving public sphere. This opens the possibility of a new interpretation of the politics of recognition. Two case studies will be conducted to test the robustness of the theoretical model.

First case study (CS1): PATRIOTISM. This case study will focus on how patriotism, which can be described as national pride or pride of one’s country, relates to processes of political commitment and collective action. It will be examined whether patriotism can convincingly be described as a political emotion that is essentially elicited by the imagination, and largely unmediated by cognitive elements such as self-evaluation and thoughtful conception of one’s national identity. In line with this, it will be investigated whether the view of patriotism as a form of identity politics can be replaced by a subtler view of patriotism as being a particular expression of the desire to create a common world for political agency and collective action.

Second case study (CS2): PRIDE PARADES. This case study will analyze how contemporary political manifestations of pride parades relate to the politics of recognition. Even if it seems counter-intuitive to advance the hypothesis that the recognition at play in these forms of political action is not recognition of one’s identity, the conspicuous and even fluctuating heterogeneity of the LGBTQ community is a sign that the research hypothesis makes sense. An important case to examine are supporters who participate and take pride in the LGBTQ movement, without however sharing its ‘identity’. Again, it will be inquired whether the view of pride as being a particular expression of the desire to create a diverse and thriving public sphere, rather than a desire to ask recognition of one’s identity, is convincing.

THE THIRD RESEARCH OBJECTIVE is to use the acquired insights for a broader normative political project. The main research question (RQ3) is how pride as a political emotion can help establish and sustain a viable political community. The guiding research hypothesis (RH3) is that pride may help sustain the principles and institutions of a just and well-ordered society, guard against social isolation and political indifference, and contribute to safeguarding a vibrant and pluralistic public sphere – a common meeting ground for political agency and collective action. 

2. METHODOLOGY

RQ1. Recent philosophical accounts of the emotion of pride are framed within a rather intellectualist approach of emotions, that defines emotions as ‘cognitive appraisals’ and relates them to forms of value-laden perceptions or thoughts (Nussbaum 2001; 2013: 399-401). Placed within this theoretical framework, the emotion of pride is generally described as being closely associated to our conception of identity, and as implying a conscious process of self-evaluation (Krettenauer - Casey 2015, Neu 1999, Rorty 1990). In this project, the validity of this approach will be questioned. It therefore makes use of the novel methodology to describe political emotions developed within the theoretical framework of ‘narrative politics’ and ‘political myth’. This approach focuses on the role of the imagination in the creation of political emotions. More specifically, it emphasizes the capacity of the imagination to trigger a direct motivation and determination to act, unmediated by cognitive elements (Mayer 2014: 124-27; Bottici 2010; Chwistek 2018). Finally, the validity of this theoretical approach will be tested by relating it to empirical studies in social psychology such as experiments on obedience, authority, persuasion and group pressure (Abelson - Frey 2017; Milgram 2009).

RQ2. The theoretical tools to analyze and describe the specific political potential of the emotion of pride will be borrowed from the theoretical framework of the politics of recognition. This approach is intimately related to the philosophical debate on multiculturalism which was in its heyday during the 1980ies and 1990ies. Since then, however, the central view of multiculturalism as assuming a juxtaposition of different communities each struggling for the survival of its own distinct cultural identity (Taylor 1994: 61) has been heavily challenged and dismissed as inconsistent with the actual dynamics of political life in the present globalized world. In the wake of this criticism, the politics of recognition, too, has virtually disappeared from contemporary philosophical discussions. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, this project attempts to reanimate the theoretical approach of the politics of recognition by taking it beyond the confines of identity politics. At the heart of this revised approach is the view that demands and struggles for political recognition can spring from entirely different motives than self-assertion and identity formation, such as the desire to shape a shared world of meaning, which in turn provides the basis for active participation in the public sphere (Arendt 1958). This modification of the politics of recognition will make it less vulnerable to critiques of the multiculturalist conception of society and may be seen as the most original methodological contribution the project attempts to make.

CS1. The first case study will be structured in analogy to the material and way of exposition in Nussbaum’s Chapter “Teaching Patriotism: Love and Critical Freedom” in Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (2013: 204-56; in this chapter, the approach to patriotism is in terms of love for one’s country, with the emotion of pride conspicuously absent). The main methodological tools for a different approach to patriotism in terms of pride of one’s country will be borrowed from Hannah Arendt’s theory of political agency, which is focused on the effort to maintain or establish “a common world of human affairs” (1958: 184).

CS2. The second case study will use the modified methodology of the politics of recognition for an analysis of contemporary ‘pride parade’ manifestations. It will make use of the empirical data and research findings in Sullivan’s Understanding Collective Pride and Group Identity (2014), but employ a different approach by taking it beyond the question of identity.

RQ3. The strategy to develop a broader normative political project is to start from a critical analysis of the research results obtained in the previous steps: potentially beneficial effects will be weighed against possibly disastrous outcomes. In doing so, the view that political manifestations of pride may have the capacity of sustaining the principles and institutions of a just and well-ordered society will be narrowed down to the establishment of the specific social and political conditions that have to be fulfilled in order for pride to have possibly beneficial effects on political agency and on the reaffirmation of the public sphere. Building on these foundations, it will be shown how pride might fit into a normative political theory. Methodological models and guiding principles for such interpretation will be borrowed from Michael Walzer’s approach in Politics and Passion (2005) and Martha Nussbaum’s approach in Political Emotions (2013).

3. NEW RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

The project commits itself to two recent developments in political philosophy: first, the increasing attention for the political role of emotions, and second, the increasing attention for narrative and imagination in the analysis of political debate and action. These developments belong to a rapidly evolving field in political philosophy as they both try to address the rapidly changing landscape of contemporary politics. As a result of new discoveries and theoretical insights, the dominance of chiefly cognitive approaches to political debate and action, in terms of ideological belief and persuasion, has significantly been challenged.

The project situates itself in the midst of these new developments, but concentrates on a topic that so far has remained largely unnoticed and undiscussed: the political role and significance of the emotion of pride. While borrowing the theoretical framework elaborated for the description of emotions in politics and while drawing inspiration from new insights and discoveries on the field of political myth and narrative politics, it will make a substantial contribution here by analyzing and describing pride as a vital political emotion.

The major methodological innovation of this project lies in a thoughtful revision and rehabilitation of the now somewhat unfashionable and largely discredited approach of the politics of recognition. At the center of this methodological revision is the belief that demands and struggles for political recognition can spring from completely different motives than self-assertion and identity formation, such as the desire to create a diverse and thriving public sphere. This opens the perspective of a new interpretation of the politics of recognition, one beyond the confines of identity politics.