Historical Social Research

45.1 - Emotion, Authority, and National Character

Special Issue - Helmut Kuzmics, Dieter Reicher & Jason Hughes (Eds.): Emotion, Authority, and National Character: Historical-Processual Perspectives.

The central concerns of this Special Issue – emotion, authority, and national character, shaped by states – owe their relevance to the manifold crises occurring in the globalised state-system of today. By contrast to the global political climate of the early 1990s – when the Eastern bloc was collapsing, when Europe was still in the euphoria of its expansion, and globalisation had not yet met with substantial nation-state resistance – the past few years have seen a growing number and range of counter reactions that are often characterised as undemocratic or even authoritarian. This renewed significance of the nation state, and in particular, of debates about “national identity,” can be witnessed in the struggles surrounding recent waves of mass migration. Similarly, the economic and financial crisis of the last decade has undergirded conflicts within states and between states. Public discourses have tended to favour simplistic explanations of such conflicts by focusing principally upon the personalities of the leaders involved. As the last decade, in particular, has witnessed the rise of nationalist parties in countries across Europe and in open opposition to the supranational idea of Europe, an historical sociology focusing on emotions and “habitus” (Norbert Elias) offers the chance of a more distanced, less partisan perspective on current discourses simply by stressing the causal relevance of processes with lasting effects but originating in an often forgotten past.

The papers written for this Special Issue show the ongoing importance of the nation-state despite its analytical neglect by many social scientists since the 1990s. They suggest focusing on historical long-term processes and on the various relationships between the formation of “survival units” (Elias) like states and the make-up of the personality structure of its members in different nation-states. They cover an area comprising Western, East Central, and Southeastern European countries; the Middle East; the US; and Japan. In the editorial introduction, methodological and theoretical problems which are related to the concepts of state-generated emotions (nationalism, authoritarianism) and of different types of “national habitus” are discussed from the viewpoint of Historical Sociology. Here and also in the contributions to this volume, state-related emotions and types of “habitus” are scrutinised in their relationship to the categories of “situations,” “discourse,” “social memory,” and “identity.” They also deal with the methodological problem of empirical (historical) sources and the normative resentment against the idea of a “national” habitus which is – erroneously – suspected of reifying social conditions open to change.