8: The Functionality of Affects: Conceptualising Far-Right Populist Politics beyond Negative Emotions

By focusing on negative affects, such as anger, fear and hate, a normative critique of affective politics tends to overlook the ambiguity and situated nature of affective politics. This chapter suggests embracing the ambivalences that characterise the emotional dynamics in political arenas; therefore, it emphasises the functionality of affects. The study adopts a post-dualistic understanding of political affects based on the conceptual devices of Sara Ahmed and Kathleen Stewart to analyse the affective practices and performances of the German political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). An ethnographic lens and analytical focus on the affective politics of far-right agents beyond negativity can permit more subtle nuances and highlight potentially overlooked facets of enactment and performance that have contributed to the successes of far-right political organisations in Europe and the US. The chapter ultimately argues that the use of ‘ordinary’ affects produces legitimacy, renders far-right politics appealing and contributes to the normalisation of far-right discourse.

Key messages

  • A normative critique of affective politics overlooks the ambiguity and situated nature of affects

  • The ambivalences that characterise the emotional dynamics in political arenas should be embraced

  • The affective practices in far-right politics challenge liberal feeling rules

  • The power of affective practices contribute to legitimising the expression of far-right views in public realms

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