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Emotions in capitalism and 'homo sentimentalis'

Frozen Intimacies (2007) is the title of the work in which the sociologist Eva illouzaims to analyze emotions in the instrumentalization that capitalism has made of them during the last century.

She is a student of the impact of psychology on the development of an "emotional capitalism" in which economic relations parasitize and end up transforming the culture of affections, the author composes the aforementioned work through the three conferences that will be reviewed. The first of the lectures is entitled The rise of homo sentimentalis.

Related article: "Liquid love: the commodification of love in the 21st century"

What are emotions (and their role in capitalism)

Illouz starts from considering emotions as an intersection between “cultural meanings and social relations” that, by simultaneously engaging “cognition, affect, evaluation, motivation and body ”, involve a condensation of energy capable of enabling human action.

In addition, the author considers that emotions have a “pre-reflective and often semi-conscious” character

since they are the result of social and cultural elements that escape the conscious decision of the subjects.

A new emotional style

At the beginning of the 20th century, and through the dissemination of the therapeutic discourse that promoted the clinical psychology, she spread "a new emotional style" consisting of "a new way of thinking about the relationship of the self with others." The main elements to be considered by this "new interpersonal imagination" of a psychoanalytic type were:

  1. The crucial role of the nuclear family in the conformation of the self.
  2. The importance of the events of daily life in the configuration of the normal and the pathological.
  3. The centrality of sex, sexual pleasure and sexuality in a linguistically structured imagination.

Beginning in the 1920s, this new emotional style spread mainly through what Illouz calls "advice literature." But while the psychoanalytic style provided "the vocabularies through which the self understands itself" in a manifest omnipresent vocation, it ended up being especially functional in the field. business, contributing both to the emotional management of the workers' lives, as well as to the systematization and rationalization of their activities during the process productive.

The role of psychology in business management

The author maintains that "the language of psychology was very successful in shaping the discourse of business individuality" to the extent that contributed to neutralize the class struggle by moving labor unrest towards the emotional framework related to the worker's personality.

In any case, Uses of Psychology in Business should not be understood solely as a subtle mechanism of control by management, since They also established "assumptions of equality and cooperation" in the relations "between workers and managers ”. Such contributions would not have been possible without the development of a "linguistic model of communication", whose foundation is found in the search for empathy by the interlocutors.

Thus, the communicative ability that allows social recognition ended up being a strategy through which to achieve business objectives in such a way that the knowledge of the emotions of the another through communication facilitates professional competence practices, while mitigating uncertainties related to the advent of a mode of production flexible. Illouz sums it up this way: “Emotional capitalism reorganized emotional cultures and made the individual economic became emotional and that emotions were more closely linked to instrumental action ”.

The role of psychology in the family environment

After “promoting efficiency and social harmony in the company”, psychology entered the family sphere in order to expand “the market for therapeutic services ”towards a middle class that, from the second half of the 20th century, increased considerably in capitalist countries advanced. In addition, therapeutic psychology was supported by the rise of feminism from the seventies, whose main concerns were around family and sexuality.

Both psychology and feminism contributed to making public, and therefore political, what had so far been experienced as personal and private.

This attitude shared by the therapeutic and feminist discourse regarding the “ideal of intimacy” was given on the basis of equality between the members of a relationship. affective, so that “pleasure and sexuality [were based] on the implementation of fair conduct and on the affirmation and preservation of the fundamental rights of women women".

The rationalization of emotional relationships

As a consequence of a new egalitarian paradigm in intimate relationships, there was a tendency to systematize in a methodical and rational way the values ​​and beliefs of the members of the couple. Consequently, "intimate life and emotions [became] measurable and calculable objects, which can be translated into quantitative statements."

The rationalization of intimate relationships from the questioning of the emotional ties on which they are based led to the transformation of such relations “into cognitive objects that can be compared with each other and be susceptible to an analysis of cost-benefit". Subtracted from their particularity, depersonalized and subjected to a process of commensuration, relationships assumed a condition of indeterminacy and transience.

Bibliographic references:

  • Illouz, Eva. (2007). Frozen Intimacies. Emotions in capitalism. Katz Editors (p.11-92).
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