The politics of emotion in everyday life: "appropriate" emotion and claims on identity

Stephanie A. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Emotions have a political dimension in that judgments regarding when and how emotion should be felt and shown are interpreted in the interests of regulating the organization and functioning of social groups. This article argues that claims to authenticity and legitimacy of one's self-identity or group identity are at stake in the everyday politics of emotion. A brief discussion of the study of sex differences in the 19th century illustrates how emotion politics can saturate even scientific inquiry. Three ways in which there is a political dimension to socially appropriate emotion in contemporary life are then discussed: (a) Is the emotion the "wrong" emotion for the situation? (b) How are competing standards for emotional experience and expression managed? and (c) What constitutes the boundary between "too much" and "too little" emotion? The author concludes by considering the relevance of emotion politics to research on emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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