Emotion and Social Theory: Corporeal Reflections on the (Ir)Rational

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Simon J. Williams

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    Dedication

    To my Mother and Father: Thank you

    Epigraphs

    ‘…those desires that are defined by man's power, that is, by reason, are always good; the other desires can be either good or evil’

    (Spinoza, Ethics)

    ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the Passions, and never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them’

    (Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature)

    ‘All virtues are really refined passions and enhanced states’

    (Nietzsche, The Will to Power)

    Acknowledgements

    This book builds, in new ways, upon ideas and insights developed, both singly and in collaboration with Gillian Bendelow, over the past five years or so. Earlier versions of some of these arguments have appeared in our joint book, The Lived Body (Routledge, 1998), and in other recent publications of mine in Sociology and Body& Society: see Chapters 2 and 5 respectively for further details. Permission to reproduce parts of this material is gratefully acknowledged.

    Thanks in particular to Gillian Bendelow for introducing me to the world of the ‘(un)managed heart’ and for her loyal friendship and collegiality throughout. Thanks too to Margaret Archer for some thought-provoking debates, Robert Fine and Jim Beckford for much needed advice and support at a critical stage in the book's gestation, and to Joan Hurd for emotional insights of a more ‘therapeutic’ kind. The influence of writers such as Arlie Russell Hochschild, Ian Craib, Jack Barbalet, Margot Lyon and Nick Crossley, should also be acknowledged here: insights which have helped clarify my own thoughts in this area and enabled me to ‘see things differently’. The errors, of course, are mine alone.

    A big thank you to Chris Rojek at Sage, who kept this project on the rails in the midst of my woes, and to other members of the editorial and production teams, particularly Jackie Griffin, Claire Cohen and a sharpeyed copy editor. I should also like to thank Dawn Dudderidge and Monteserrat Guibernau for their loyal friendship and support. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Ruth Charity for all this and more, a heart that knows no bounds.

    Preface

    This has been a difficult book to write. Part of this, no doubt, stems from my own limitations or inadequacies. It's also, I believe, inherent in the very nature of the topic in question and the state of the field to date. Not only are emotions themselves a moving or slippery target, but the variety of competing or contrasting perspectives with which to analyse them, makes a book of this nature a somewhat hazardous undertaking with many traps and pitfalls along the way. The old adage that the more we study an issue the less clear it becomes is, I think, particularly apposite in the case of emotions. Emotions are indeed an emotive topic, spanning both the rational and irrational, orderly and chaotic, beneficent and virulent realms of social life and human existence.

    The book does not therefore, provide some neat or tidy, orderly or seamless story; everything fitting nicely together in a coherent march from chapter to chapter. The ride instead is somewhat bumpy, with paradoxes and contradictions alive and kicking throughout. Some of this, to repeat, may boil down to a lack of integrative skill on my part. Much of it however, is a product of the multidimensional, multifaceted nature of emotions themselves and the ‘state of play’ within the field to date. My strategy here, faced with this potential conundrum, has been to turn this into a strength rather than a weakness of the book. Whether, of course, I manage to pull this off is for readers to judge. My own personal view of the book, for what it is worth, is very much along the lines of an ‘evolving’ project, with many ‘loose ends’ and un(der)explored issues which remain to be addressed, by myself and others, in the future. What is clear within all this, as confessions themselves suggest, is that we are never (qua embodied human beings) devoid of an emotional stance on the world, including the ups and downs of this particular book venture itself. Disappointment I am assured, is important. I hope, however, I have done enough to avoid it on the reader's part, on this particular occasion. It is with these prefatory remarks in mind that the book proceeds.

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