Labour History Review

The Boosting and Moulding of Anger: Swedish Social Democratic Emotional Policy from the 1880s to the 1980s

Labour History Review (2018), 83, (3), 249–275.

Abstract

Twentieth-century politicians have not only devoted themselves to formulating ideologies and representing various social interests. By actively expressing, communicating, and displaying emotions, they have also pursued ‘emotional politics’, which means that they have used and formed emotions for political purposes. This study scrutinizes how Swedish social democracy, especially its party leaders and early campaigners, has conducted emotional politics from the 1880s to the 1980s. Socialism turned the idea of a divine judgment into a secular world court by promising that in the event of revolution, anger would be given an outlet, revenge would occur, justice would prevail, and the oppressed would be given back their dignity. During the interwar period, the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) took decisive steps towards becoming a reformist ‘people’s party’. Simultaneously, its party leaders conducted emotional navigation to replace anger with other feelings by legitimizing worry and uncertainty as ways of expressing social displeasure and by furthering a sense of pride generated by emotional self-control. Since the interwar period, it has been a recurrent strategy among Swedish Social Democratic party leaders to pursue emotional navigation in order to mitigate anger and replace it with other emotions.

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Author details

Ljunggren, Jens