Five: Feeling politics: the importance of emotions for understanding electoral (dis)engagement


This chapter highlights the importance of emotions and feelings for understanding electoral (dis)engagement. While high levels of dissatisfaction and electoral disengagement have been registered, many people do still engage with politics. This is happening amidst the demise of a grassroots base to party politics and an undermining of the regulatory and identificatory purchase of social institutions. The chapter explores why the social sciences have broadly ignored emotions when examining electoral politics. It is then argued that social changes may have increased citizens  reliance on emotions and feelings to negotiate an increasingly individualised electoral politics. This is followed by a discussion of recent qualitative research on the political (dis)engagement of white working class people in the north of England. In particular, being attuned to the emotional dimensions of electoral (dis)engagement can help challenge the common assumption that disengaged citizens are necessarily individualised and apathetic by highlighting the critical work of citizens and the failures of political elites to meaningfully connect.

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