Ever since Georg Simmel’s seminal works, social relations have been a central building block of sociological theory. In relational sociology, social identities are an essential concept and supposed to emerge in close interaction with other identities, discourses and objects. To assess this kind of relationality, existing research capitalises on patterns of meaning making that are constitutive for identities. These patterns are often understood as forms of declarative knowledge and are reconstructed, using qualitative methods, from denotative meanings as they surface: for example, in stories and narratives. We argue that this approach to some extent privileges explicit and conceptual knowledge over tacit and non-conceptual forms of knowledge. We suggest that affect is a concept that can adequately account for such implicit and bodily meanings, even when measured on the level of linguistic concepts. We draw on affect control theory (ACT) and related methods to investigate the affective meanings of concepts (lexemes) denoting identities in a large survey. We demonstrate that even though these meanings are widely shared across respondents, they nevertheless show systematic variation reflecting respondents’ positions within the social space and the typical interaction experiences associated with their identities. In line with ACT, we show, first, that the affective relations between exemplary identities mirror their prototypical, culturally circumscribed and institutionalised relations (for example, between role identities). Second, we show that there are systematic differences in these affective relations across gender, occupational status and regional culture, which we interpret as reflecting respondents’ subjective positioning and experience vis-à-vis a shared cultural reality.
Recent research has investigated the emotional underpinnings of support for the political new right. Some of these works focus on the supply-side of support, emphasising specific political styles and discourses, whereas others emphasise the demand-side, highlighting cultural, economic and emotional factors. Lacking from this research, in particular for the European context, is an understanding of how supporters of the new right experience and make sense of pertinent cleavages with regard to emotions. The present study sets out to acquire a more detailed understanding of the emotional narratives of supporters of the new right, in particular with regard to fear and religious cleavages. Using group interviews with supporters of new right parties and movements in Germany, we show that narratives involving fear pertain to the idea of a valued collective ‘We’ that consists of political and cultural elements, and serves as a reference point to collective identity and an antidote to existential insecurities. Further, the collective We is perceived to be threatened by cultural differences and changing majority-minority relations with respect to five domains of social life: demography, liberal democratic order, public majority culture, security and welfare.