9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN11 Sociology of Emotions

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Relations & Emotions I Building II, C6.06

On the Multiple Causes of Emotional Ambivalence

A few classical and contemporary sociologists (Simmel, Merton, Elias, Smelser, Weigert&Franks, Deborah Gould, Pratt&Doucet) have addressed the phenomenon of ambivalence. Some have argued that ambivalence is part of human nature and/or culture, while others saw it as a typical modern phenomenon - a reaction to the complex, hard to define, rapidly shifting and ever expanding (chains of) human relationships. To Merton sociological ambivalence was primarily about (professional) roles confronted with conflicting cognitive-normative expectations/pressures. Weigert&Franks and Pratt&Doucet agreed, but paid much more attention to the social diversity of conflicting goals & role expectations as well as to conflicting emotions that accompany these and produce the state of ambivalence. As ambivalence Weigert&Franks also defined, drawing on Hochschild, the gap between the "authentic" and the feeling rule. In contrast to these authors, Smelser shifted focus away from roles, norms and feeling rules to the contradictory emotions in the individual psyche. It entailed contradictory emotions about specific persons or relationships and was very likely to emerge in situations of power asymmetry/dependency, especially within locking-in relationships, organisations or institutions. These authors agreed that ambivalence is other-directed, and that incompatible emotions often immobilize and/or are a cause pain. This led to the question of how ambivalence is resolved. Pratt&Doucet, for example, focused on the individual resolution modes, ranging from its denial through indecision and wait&see posture to fanatical commitment. Debbie Gould in contrast highlighted self-directed emotional ambivalence and its immobilizing consequences. She showed how two external actors - social movement and government - worked to resolve the individual state of ambivalence to the advantage of one emotion - anger - to produce social mobilization. In our presentation we would like to posit emotional ambivalence as a complex phenomenon that has several distinct causes. Drawing on the work of Ervin Goffman, Theodore Kemper, Thomas Scheff, Arlie Hochschild and Eva Illouz we would like to propose that emotional ambivalence can be caused by (1) attribution of guilt/responsibility (2) feeling rules/cultural codes (3) status/power constellations (4) status/power & feeling rules.