Social emotions and the experience of politics in everyday life

The primary goal of the project is to advance our theoretical understanding of why people engage in political behaviors. It does so by developing a theoretical perspective in which the motivation to express political preferences derives from emotional dynamics in mundane micro-level interactions (or ‘rituals’). The core (and novel) idea is that the situational quality of social interactions has an independent causal influence on political preference - as well as on the motivation to translate them into political actions.
Theoretically, the project will propose a relational perspective that builds on the radical micro sociology of Randall Collins. The central intuition is that cognitions, such as political attitudes, derive their motivational force from positive emotions that can only be generated through the entrainment in rhythmically coordinated interactions. It will go beyond applying Collins’s micro theory to politics and also address the question of how political rituals are embedded in societal discourses and ideologies. As a result, the project will deliver an original theory that simultaneously gives justice to situational micro dynamics as well as to factors on the macro level.
The second goal is to explore whether such a perspective provides empirical added value. It will strike a balance between a qualitative approach (that aims at an understanding of the emotional dynamics in political rituals) and causality-oriented research (that tests whether interaction quality influences the expression of preferences). It does so by using focus groups as sites for qualitative observation, quantitative measurement, and experimental manipulation of political rituals.