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 Emotions & Ethics Building II, C6.10

Emotions as the 'glue' and substance of solidarity

This presentation lends its title from Randall Collins´ (1990) characterization of emotions as the "glue" of solidarity. I will argue for the same conclusion for partly different reasons, while suggesting that group emotions manifest substantial features of group solidarity as well. Solidarity has often been characterized as either involving or constitutive of an affective bond; a feeling of cohesion or belonging together between group members. Besides these "feelings of solidarity", however, emotions have several other functions in the structure and dynamics of social groups. Firstly, shared emotions contribute to the emergence and constitution of social groups. Contrary to Collins who understands group emotions as a primarily physiological, nonintentional states accompanied by shared focus of attention, I suggest that shared emotions are capable of giving rise to social groups by virtue of being intentional states with evaluative, motivational, and behavioral components that represent the emerging group´s goals, beliefs, and intentions in an embryonic form. Secondly, emotions constitute an affective dimension of the group members´ commitment to the group´s ethos - its constitutive goals, values, standards, or norms. The point is that if group members are committed to the group goal, they ought to, other things being equal, feel disappointed if the goal is thwarted; angry at the agent thwarting the goal, afraid if the goal is threatened, happy if the goal is achieved, and so on. Thirdly, fellow feelings, empathy, and sympathy constitute an affective dimension of the group members´ commitment to each other. Group members are also motivated to praise and blame their each other for their acting either for or against the group ethos. Fourthly, shared emotions about ethos-related events, such as joy about the group´s achievements, disappointment about its defeats, anger at agents perceived to be responsible for the group?s defeat, and so on, reinforce the group members´ feelings of solidarity. Finally, I argue that social groups in which emotions function in all these ways are solidary groups that manifest substantial features of group solidarity. Empirical examples of such groups may include teams, parties, labour unions, theatre ensembles, orchestras, workgroups, and so on.