Politics in the early twenty-first century, we are told, is buzzing with emotions. Around the globe, journalists and political scientists say they are observing a growing tendency by politicians to appeal to people’s emotions and by citizens to act emotionally. Emotions, they contend, have invaded political campaign rhetoric, thanks to the rise of populist parties with their antagonistic and polarizing agendas and the ubiquity of social media.Footnote 1

This book seeks to set the record straight. As historians, we argue that modern politics has always had a close affinity with emotions and embraced adversarial confrontation. Ever since politics ceased being the monopoly of an absolutist or semi-absolutist ruler with an entourage of ministers and councillors, the state has been confronted by increasing numbers of citizens who, having developed a growing awareness of themselves as political beings, have started ‘feeling political’.Footnote 2 In actively caring about the way they are governed, they have claimed the right to a say as well as the right to be heard. They have formed opinions about public matters and voiced and negotiated them in various forums and arenas of political communication. In the modern age of mass participation, ‘feeling political’ has become a shared experience, not only enabled but templated by and within a variety of institutions.

Written in close collaboration by a team of eleven historians, this book makes three interventions into the history and theory of modern politics. First, we highlight the different ways in which politics became or was imagined as participatory in Western Europe and North America since the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century by paying attention to national and historical specificities. Second, we focus on the role of institutions in organizing, enabling, motivating, channelling, or enforcing political participation in diverse formats and with different meanings. Third, we introduce the concept of emotional templating to analyse how institutions at various points in time have invited and incited their members to ‘feel political’.

Politics and Emotion: A Special Affair

In political theory as much as in ideal notions of political practice, emotions have often occupied a difficult position. Ideally, as many have claimed, politics should work without emotion or at least keep emotions at bay. At the same time, few have doubted the importance of emotional ties between rulers and ruled. Political authority, as Max Weber stated in the early twentieth century, can be based on multiple sources of legitimation: on tradition, faith in the law, and personal charisma.Footnote 3 Charismatic leaders have come the closest to constructing strong emotional bonds with their followers in an obvious way. Yet, citizens who believe in the power of tradition or the rule of law and due process have likewise brought emotions into the political field. The act of believing and keeping faith, of trusting and building confidence, has not solely relied on rational calculation but has involved emotions that have, in turn, been kindled by politicians and other activists. Weber knew by experience that activists are themselves led by a passionate commitment to certain goals, values, and interests. Even though politics is done ‘with the head, not with other parts of the body, nor the soul’, dedication to politics can ‘only be born of and sustained by passion’.Footnote 4

Weber’s observations notwithstanding, political scientists have tended to neglect the intense and varied entanglement of politics and emotions. Recent decades, however, have seen a veritable surge of interest in this field. So far, studies have mostly focused on contemporary times, which, to many researchers, appear to be extraordinarily emotional(ized). Using a range of approaches from political philosophy to empirical investigation, they have often subscribed to a brand of affect theory that reduces emotions to affective reactions to political stimuli.Footnote 5 As historians, we favour a longer view on political institutions and mobilization, in order to distinguish between general trends and the specifics of the current political moment. We offer a systematic, yet nuanced analysis of emotions as a historical phenomenon in modern politics.

‘Modern’ means the time period beginning around 1800, after the American Constitution had come into force and the impact of the French Revolution was being felt in many parts of Europe and beyond. Although participatory politics, taking off in 1789, has not been a straightforward development, it has, broadly speaking, contributed to the shape of current European democracies: it helped to demolish the political architecture of the Old Regime; it transformed or established institutions, such as constitutions, parliaments, courts of justice , administrative and executive bodies, political parties, and associations, that have proved astonishingly long-lasting, effective, and sustainable. An ever-widening public sphere granted citizens the right to assemble and freely discuss public matters, allowing for new institutional settings like political rallies, parades, and demonstrations.Footnote 6 Against this background, even the leaders of totalitarian regimes, such as Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, or, partly, the GDR, could not ignore the public. While they did not invite democratic participatory politics, they invested heavily in the politics of—forced—participation.

Institutions and Emotional Templates

Participation mostly took place in and through institutions, whether explicitly political or appropriated for a political cause. Such institutions carried emotional messages of many and varied kinds. They provided guidelines for their members on how to feel and navigate emotions and taught them which to express and which to eschew, at what intensity and through which kinds of behaviour. They offered suggestions for when and where certain emotions, but not others, should be addressed and performed. Institutions thus enabled, invited, incentivized, channelled, controlled, or prohibited emotional practices—that is, they developed templates for emotions.

This kind of emotion work, rarely addressed in the vast literature on the theory and practice of institutions, deserves more attention.Footnote 7 Not surprisingly, social scientists have long since discovered institutions to be a crucial element of social life, especially when the definition of what constitutes an institution goes beyond official organizational frameworks.Footnote 8 An institution can be any body with a formal infrastructure (such as a parliament or an administration) or a system of relatively informal rules, incentives, and constraints (such as religion or the family) or both. This wider definition of institutions captures not only the settings, but also the dynamics of political emotions: institutions are the sites where emotions play out, while also affecting their governing principles and enactments . Conceiving of ‘institutions’ both as a social pattern and as a methodological approach to emotions in politics allows us to unpick such misleading binaries as individual/social, private/public, unique/common, or subjective/collective, all of which fail to address the generative and performative complexity of emotions.

With this in mind, we follow the definition suggested by James March and Johan Olsen: an institution is a ‘relatively stable collection of rules and practices, embedded in structures of resources … and structures of meaning’. Organizational, financial, and personal resources enable political action, while common purposes, beliefs, and feelings of belonging ‘explain and justify behavior’. Institutions can thus be conceived of as

organizational arrangements that link roles/identities, accounts of situations, resources, and prescriptive rules and practices. They create actors and meeting places and organize the relations and interactions among actors. They guide behavior and stabilize expectations. Specific institutional settings also provide vocabularies that frame thought and understandings and define what are legitimate arguments and standards of justification and criticism.

Furthermore, institutions ‘allocate resources and empower and constrain actors differently and make them more or less capable of acting according to prescribed rules. They affect whose justice and what rationality has primacy.’Footnote 9

However, institutions are not just about ‘justice’ and ‘rationality’. Apart from providing cognitive frames and maps of meaning, they offer emotional modes that are shared among their members and aligned with organizational goals. They create, in March and Olsen’s words, a ‘logic of appropriateness’. This includes the appropriateness of emotions: which emotions are deemed adequate and in what way should they be navigated and expressed? That institutions and their logics are often recognizable, even though not necessarily imitable, by outsiders makes them particularly effective as tools of political and social formation. The impact of emotions on political actions, as well as the emotions themselves, is shaped by institutional settings, structures of opportunity, and the particular languages spoken within institutions. ‘Language’ comes in multiple forms, including verbal utterances, bodily gestures and mimicry, or a tone of voice that could range from a whisper to a yell. Language in this broader sense contains cognitive content and expresses, channels, and modulates emotions. It elicits and communicates them, tunes their intensity, silences them, and can, perhaps, even make them disappear.

The power of embodied language to mould and shape emotions has frequently been the subject of commentary. The expression of emotions, Charles Darwin stated in 1872, ‘intensifies’ their feeling, while the repression ‘of all outward signs softens our emotions’. Similar observations were made by a great number of contemporary and future physicians and psychologists.Footnote 10 Building on their work and drawing on J. L. Austin’s speech act theory , historian William Reddy has introduced the term ‘emotive’, which denotes the ‘performative utterance’ of emotion, in order to capture the feedback loops and intermingling between emotional words or phrases, the emotions to which they refer, and the situational context they are trying to make sense of.Footnote 11

Here, institutions are crucial. As broader systems of rules, incentives, and constraints, institutions define and develop ‘languages of emotion’ (Darwin ) they consider appropriate for the purposes they pursue and effect. Different purposes call for different languages. Religious institutions have different emotion words and gestures to those of the family or sports clubs. So too have economics and politics. Precisely because of their distinct emotional registers, institutions can borrow from one another, in order to solemnize the mundane, for instance, or functionalize the experiential. Even if emotives consist of the same sequence of letters, they carry different meanings depending on their institutional context and the institution’s time and place. ‘Trust me’ is an emotional appeal that can be heard in more than one context: in intimate love relationships, between parents and children, between the seller and potential buyer of a used car, or between politicians and voters. In these various settings, the quality and qualifications of trust change. Trust can become thicker or thinner, have stronger or weaker consequences, or be given freely or hesitantly. It also involves and results in a variety of social practices, which in turn impact the emotional investment involved and shape any associated behaviour, whether present or future. Trusting a lover not to cheat on you involves different, arguably more immediately felt, demands than trusting your baker not to sell you old bread, or your political representative not to make unwanted decisions.

People learn through experience to distinguish between references to and objects and feelings of trust. Membership in institutions with distinct guidelines for emotions provides such experience. By joining an institution, whether by act of personal consent or through structural habituation, people acquire knowledge about those precepts and become accustomed to acting accordingly. This is what we mean by ‘templating’: institutions convey ideas and draw up maps and hierarchies about right or wrong, but also about appropriate or unacceptable feelings and related practices. Written and unwritten rules, sometimes just emerging, sometimes established over centuries, help their members adapt to institutional expectations about emotions, pursue the institution’s goal, and enact its purpose. At the same time, members contribute to defining and moulding those rules. The templating process does not work exclusively from the top down or from the inside towards the outside in ever wider circles. People can also act collectively, rather than individually, towards developing new templates of thought and feeling and bringing them to life. Newcomers or unforeseen events can catalyse an institution’s re-orientation in spite of a reigning template.

Why use the concept of the template? It is a commonplace in the history of emotions that emotions are ‘shaped’, ‘scripted’, ‘framed’, ‘formed’, or ‘modelled’ by a complex, and indivisible, interaction between biological dispositions, individual variation, and cultural context. Ranging from ‘emotionology’ to ‘emotional regimes’ and ‘feeling rules’, scholars and social scientists have generated numerous terminologies to apprehend the norms and standards of emotional expression and management in given times and places.Footnote 12 While those theories are valuable in accounting for an overarching system of norms—and acknowledging a system’s often substantial incongruence with lived experience—they do not offer a conceptual and methodological tool for assessing the interplay between rules and how they play out in specific contexts. They also, implicitly, disconnect the rules from the ruled and set up binaries between social structure and individual experience, limiting potential behaviour to a simplified model of compliance and resistance (and their respective variations). By contrast, pairing emotion with ‘template’ creates a tool for assessing the formation of emotions as a dynamic process within ever-changing institutional settings.

A template is a set of organizing signs geared towards a particular purpose or goal. An emotional template comes into being when an institution or institutional programme is aligned with emotions. To template emotions does not simply mean to form or shape them: templates communicate between the larger structure, that is, the institution, and individuals by offering them a loosely outlined, yet reliable mode of feeling. Templates intersect with, but are not identical with, the ‘emotion script’. Although definitions of ‘script’ differ, depending on whether the term is used in affect theory, emotion history, or psychological emotion research, it is, broadly speaking, understood as ‘emotion knowledge structures’: ‘people acquire socially-shared, culturally-specific knowledge about emotions, including details of what typically causes them, what they feel like, how people feeling them are likely to behave, and what their likely outcomes are.’Footnote 13 Although templates are about emotion knowledge too, they differ from scripts in that they do not share the latter’s sequential organization: scripts, maybe because of their conceptual link to narratives with their succession of incidents, are mostly understood as sequences or episodes, as ‘a list of component events linked in a temporal and causal order’.Footnote 14 In brief: scripts are patterns for acts. Templates, in contrast, do not imply a consecutive sequence of scenes—although this is of course possible—since they are not limited to behaviour, but can include symbols, tropes, and images.Footnote 15 As they are no action, they are neither a habitus nor a practice nor a style.Footnote 16 Rather, as they consolidate narratives, values, strategies, and practices, they are best understood to not only provide a pattern for emotion, but also epitomize an institution’s emotion policy. As such, templates transcend the dichotomy between adherence and opposition to rules, because they necessarily encompass both at the same time. As every institutional template is enacted by an individual, each enactment is unique. Yet, if one abstracts from the individual, a pattern of enactment becomes discernible. A template offers a map, but there is more than one path to emotional expression. Each individual action towards the institution’s programme helps solidify the template.

Templates contextualize and complement emotives. Just as emotives can alter and regenerate an individual’s emotional mode, templates convey the emotional mode that an institution expects and invites from its members, in an ongoing process. This is not to say that institutions, or templates for that matter, have agency as disembodied actors. Institutions are made up of people; templates are constructed by people for people. In giving a sense of coherence, however, institutional structures help people orient these templates towards a specific cause. As templates develop over time, they are malleable without being arbitrary. Institutional structures limit the potentially innumerable ways in which emotions can be felt and expressed, so that they can be understood and followed.

Emotion Work and ‘Moments of Emergence’

This book draws on a concept of emotions that emphasizes social embeddedness over psychobiological factuality and the primacy of subjectivity. In contrast to many strands of affect theory, emotions are neither conceived of as nonintentional, noncognitive, and noncultural, nor are they considered as wholly cognitive, strategic, and instrumental.Footnote 17 Instead, they feature as bodily experiences that are, however, reflected upon and communicated to others through a variety of appropriate or inappropriate practices. Both the experimental basis and communicative functions of emotions depend, here, on social and cultural prerequisites and framings that encompass—to varying degrees—notions of the human body as well as judgements on the desirability or tabooing of individual sensibility and collective passion.

There can be little doubt that emotions do not belong exclusively to the realm of subjective experience. This by no means denies the fact that emotions occur in, and are constructed and expressed by, real people. Only a living being, with a responsive body and mind, can feel (this includes both human and non-human animals). But even though feelings are expressed individually, they follow a logic that is shared by more than one person. Emotions are genuinely social. They have to be readable, understandable, digestible—both by the individual who feels them and by others in her or his social environment. If emotions are, as Darwin noted, essential ‘means of communication’, they must follow certain grammatical and syntactical patterns and be able to translate into distinct performative practices. None of these communicative elements—grammar, syntax, practice—is innate, universal, or timeless. Instead, they are learnt, negotiated, and passed on in human interactions that vary across time, space, and social formation.

Since it began to flourish as a new field in the 2000s, the history of emotions has built an impressive catalogue of theoretical and methodological approaches to emotions, feelings, and related phenomena such as affects, passions, moods, atmospheres, and the like.Footnote 18 These contributions break with the idea of emotions as fleeting, volatile, merely superficial epi-phenomena. Instead, they emphasize the materiality, historicity, and transformative power of emotions and the rationality or strategic wisdom they possess. They often support the theory of ‘constructed emotions’ introduced by neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett.

Barrett’s approach is based on the idea that emotions are both biologically evident and socially constructed. Typically, they begin with ‘a momentary array of sensations from the world (light, sound, smell, touch, and taste) combined with sensations from the body’. These sensations only count as an experience or perception of emotion ‘when categorized as such during a situated conceptualization’. Through this process of categorization, ‘sensations acquire functions that are not intrinsic to them; this occurs by adding information from past experience’. Language plays a crucial role since it both represents and forms the categories and concepts that transform content-weak sensations into content-rich emotions.Footnote 19 Thus, while we are aware that emotion terms and statements do not capture the entire richness of emotions, we also do not discount them as ‘just the lexicalized residue of what happens when the data of life are processed in a particular way’.Footnote 20 They are, as our enquiries into textual sources show, a way to describe, engender, and enact emotions.

In contrast to affective neuroscience and affect studies more broadly, which mostly concentrate on physical and mental levels of transformation, historians and other social scientists are better equipped to investigate the social processes of constructing emotions and the role emotions play in social formations. We bring these threads together by focusing on institutions, which, given the fundamental role they play in impacting emotions, deserve much greater attention from emotion researchers.Footnote 21 As noted above, institutions provide both meaning and essential resources to their members. This includes contextual information, but also ways of categorizing the emotions that members learn and adopt through templates. In other words, institutions form emotional templates and incentivize their members to absorb or habituate to them and act accordingly.

But how, exactly, do they do it? As historians, we are used to combining how-questions with whens, wheres, and, possibly, whys. We keep a close eye on circumstances and conditions, on enabling and constraining factors. We analyse the work done by emotions—as sayings and doings—in social encounters and modes of communication and the tasks they fulfil. We also look at the effects of such emotion work on the institution concerned, and beyond it.

In order to get a full and dynamic picture of emotional templating within institutions, our chapters focus on what we call ‘moments of emergence’. In such moments, when institutions come into being, or undergo significant changes, the very structures and processes through which institutional logics are being formed, contested, and negotiated are revealed. A template is something that is not yet completely instilled and converted into undisputed practices or language. Templates therefore lend themselves to close and detailed scrutiny. In the realm of politics, we can detect and identify templating whenever we come across conversations and controversies concerning the appropriate amount of emotional investment and expression. During the nineteenth century, for instance, women increasingly demanded a say in political matters. Their claims were usually rejected because their alleged emotionality was not suited to the sober and rational, and therefore manly, profession of politics. Yet even men, as Philipp Nielsen’s chapter shows, brought such strong emotions to the political arena that institutions such as parliaments or election rallies made every effort to formalize and channel their passionate fervour.

Conversely, Francesco Buscemi’s analysis of French bureaucracies illustrates how revolutionary times have placed particular emotional demands on, especially male, civil servants that defy the modern picture of disinterested and impersonal administrators. Citizens have expected their officials to possess certain emotional qualifications and thus bridge the political gap between the state and the people. In 1876, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche remarked on the ‘social expressions of a friendly disposition, those smiles of the eyes, those handclasps’ that officials had added to their repertoire of professional duties. Even small doses of ‘benevolence’ and ‘politeness of the heart’ now played a prominent role ‘in the construction of culture’.Footnote 22 A century later, those emotional templates were emphasized even more when societies began to conceive of civil servants less as servants of the state (Staatsdiener in German or serviteurs de l’État in French) and more as servants of citizens and civil society, or even of humanity, as Agnes Arndt argues, by way of the International Criminal Court.

Political Institutions and Change

Emotional templating as it is done by and within institutions thus alters its characteristics in response to new social challenges, new political ideas and ideologies, or new institutional functions. The political sphere has been particularly prone to such challenges due to the enormous quantitative and qualitative expansion it has undergone during the modern age. Liberal-democratic politics is understood as a space of communication, where citizens negotiate how to live together. Since the nineteenth century, many European and North American societies have shown a marked tendency to let more and more people intervene in politics (by, for instance, expanding suffrage to women, non-property holding men, religious minorities, and black people and allowing them to join political parties and associations). But the twentieth century has also witnessed reverse developments with the space of political communication narrowing and being tightly controlled by the ruling party. As Ute Frevert’s investigation of street politics demonstrates, citizens’ interventions were by no means confined to executive and legislative institutions.Footnote 23 They also targeted parties, trade unions, civic associations, and NGOs—Juliane Brauer’s study of political youth organizations and Caroline Moine’s overview of international solidarity movements will explore these in more detail. Politics might have even, as Julia Wambach’s foray into the intricacies of the German Bundesliga carves out, reached so far as football clubs, which have at times become politicized and served political ends.

Modern political communication, as practised in multiple forums since the nineteenth century, necessarily evolved with a high amount of discord and conflict. As former subjects morphed into citizens with a right to actively participate in political debates and decision-making, politics became ever more controversial and antagonistic, sometimes to the point of reversing those hard-won rights. Even though not all citizens were keen on spending their free time in political assemblies or at election rallies, many were politically engaged, either individually or as members of a political club, association, or party. With the introduction of universal male suffrage, a political ‘mass market’ came into being.Footnote 24 Newspapers proliferated and diversified, providing both factual information and judgements on political matters. They published opinion pieces, but they also summed up parliamentary proceedings or printed and quoted from stenographic reports. Many papers were owned and run by parties that used them to impress, influence, and mobilize members and voters.

Mobilization was especially crucial during election campaigns and involved a great number of strategies and media formats. These campaigns—a term borrowed from the military—were usually fought with no holds barred. The German expression of Wahlkampf, election battle, is especially militaristic, neatly capturing the intensity of struggle and fighting that could—and can—be observed before polling days. The notion of struggle, Kampf , also pertained to other political disputes. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s 1870s policy to curtail the power of the Catholic Church in Prussia and Germany was labelled by the liberal MP Rudolf Virchow as a Kulturkampf , or culture war. Socialists in the nineteenth century began to speak of class struggle when they addressed the need for workers to resist capitalist repression and the state supporting it. Struggle has a propensity of pitting adversaries against one another, verbally and, at times, physically as well. This is what Carl Schmitt, a conservative constitutional theorist, had in mind when in 1932 he coined the famous definition of politics as ‘the intensity of an association or dissociation of human beings whose motives can be religious, national (in the ethnic or cultural sense), economic, or of another kind and can effect at different times different coalitions and separations’.Footnote 25

When Schmitt spoke of intensity, he was referring to a state of emotional arousal engendered by politics as a highly conflictual and potentially antagonistic field.Footnote 26 Conflict, in turn, points to the dynamics that institutions harbouring political intensity must deal and put up with. Change, strife, and malleability are some of their central features. At the same time and partly because they are not identical with the system in which they exist, political institutions have shown an astonishing degree of structural stability and continuity. Parliaments, presidencies, assemblies, parties, clubs, associations, courts, rallies, and demonstrations all emerged during the turbulent period following the French Revolution, and they are still with us, sometimes even in the same architectural and organizational shape they acquired centuries ago. But due to new claims made by new participants and the ensuing contestations of these claims, emotional practices within political institutions have changed, sometimes visibly, sometimes subcutaneously. Old and new media—from prints and paintings of the eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century photography to radio in the 1920s, television in the 1950s, and web-based digital media since the 1990s—have radically altered the structure of political communication and developed their own styles and formats of emotional messaging, with considerable impact on how people have constructed, shared, and performed emotions in politics. Portraits of US presidents, analysed by Kerstin Maria Pahl, changed the medium, yet retained something of their purpose to both provide exemplary attitudes for incumbents and present a relatable leader for the public to identify with. By contrast, as Michael Amico argues, the development of radio communication gave Franklin D. Roosevelt the opportunity to create a feeling community unprecedented in its reach and intimacy.

At times, these alterations were connected to radical changes of the political system over the course of the nineteenth and especially twentieth centuries. France, for instance, saw eight different political regimes between 1792 and the First World War, spanning the first republic, which ended in 1804, Napoleon’s imperial rule, two monarchies, the second republic in 1848, and its transformation of the republican president into Emperor Napoleon III. The third republic, proclaimed in 1871, adopted a new constitution, but also new political emotions of revenge (against Germany) and hatred on the domestic front. The highly emotionalized policies of separating church and state that resurfaced in the institutional struggles over commemoration ceremonies are explored by Karsten Lichau in his contribution on French Armistice Day. Germany’s twentieth century counted six political regimes, from the semi-autocratic Empire that lasted until 1918 to the Weimar Republic, followed by National Socialist dictatorship. After 1949, two Germanies lived side by side: a liberal-democratic Federal Republic and a socialist republic whose democratic plumage obscured the dictatorial rule of its singular party. Interestingly, reunification in 1990 left political institutions as they had developed in the West largely intact. But it also saw the emergence of new parties on both left and right that successfully sought to template negative emotions of resentment, alienation, and rejection among their respective followers.

In surveying this succession of political regimes and institutional formations, there is a temptation to draw strict lines of separation between liberal democracies on the one hand and authoritarian dictatorships on the other. Yet even dictatorships have relied upon and made use of citizens’ participation as a new feature of politics in the modern age. The German National Socialist and Italian Fascist regimes—the latter features in Hannah Malone’s investigation of the political use of cemeteries—as well as the Soviet Union and other so-called People’s Democracies of Central and Eastern Europe prided themselves not only on representing will and sovereignty of their people, but on giving them a voice and getting them involved in politics. They established mass organizations and either incentivized or forced women, men, children, and adolescents to join them. They staged inclusionary political festivities with strong emotional appeals to unity and cooperation, and created symbols and rituals that were designed to speak to people’s hearts and enlist them for the common cause. Although some ceremonies were retained from earlier times, this was done from the top-down and with clear, potentially even lethal definitions of who should be excluded or was undeserving of compassion and solidarity. Still, even the US under Roosevelt, which many today would consider the epitome of democratic, liberal anti-fascism deployed common instruments of political persuasion, such as modern media, and harboured factions who were impressed by the way Adolf Hitler had captivated the German population.

Twentieth-century dictatorships thus bought into the appeal of participatory politics as it had been invented and won by ‘progressive’ forces during the nineteenth century. They did so, however, not in order to grant citizens a real say in politics and enable them to present their own ideas about how they wanted to live, love, work, and play. Instead, they aimed at streamlining consent and enforcing affective ties between top and bottom. Feeling political took on radically different meanings and built on other institutional resources. Trusting and publicly worshipping the leader (and ruling party) through celebratory mass events replaced the bottom-up protests and demonstrations that were common in liberal democracies and forbidden in fascist and state socialist countries. While competing parties often were outlawed and conflict was ruled out, authoritarian regimes employed elaborate policies of emotional agitation and manipulation. Although system change was suspended, they spread the illusion of people always on the move, never standing still. They had them marching in columns, waving hands and flags, and cheering and singing collectively, all at frequent intervals. Emotional templating thus continued, albeit its latitude of expression and manifestation of purpose were constantly adjusted and fine-tuned to instigate particular kinds of involvement.

Emotional templates are part and parcel of modern politics, be they democratic or authoritarian. They become the means by which institutions continue to affect people, even as those institutions adapt their programme to changing circumstances. This makes emotional templates key mechanisms of historical change, both driving and incorporating transformation. As templates encompass both emotions themselves and their enactment, they continue to evolve and are subject to further change while also retaining links to earlier ideas and forms of enactment. Templates offer individuals the opportunity to express an institution’s programme for themselves and feel connected to it. Conversely, they can be used to force people into acquiescence and to erase alternative responses.

It is the ambiguity of templates that makes our historical endeavour timely. Rather than limiting our analysis of emotions in politics to the domain of populist politicians and parties, we look at the political arena’s inherent challenges when it comes to emotions: the drift towards polarization and the concurrent loss of more nuanced emotional styles, as well as a disappearing capacity to contain emotional struggle within certain limits.Footnote 27 Schmitt’s definition of politics as a state of ‘intensity’ expresses this in a nutshell: the distinction between friend and enemy, between allies who can be co-opted and opponents who must be fought, is at the heart of ‘association and dissociation’.Footnote 28 It is through templates that struggles over the best way forward for a good life become forcefully expressed.

Organization of the Book

Feeling political as a manifestation of institutional templating has taken on distinctive features and meanings depending on ideological resources, shared purposes and visions, and ‘logics of appropriateness’. It has not been limited to single emotions such as fear, rage, empathy, or trust, but evolved as a historically variable mixture of tradition, experience, and circumstance. It concerns modes of feeling about how people want to live and work together, define the common good, and take or accept binding decisions on its behalf. By investigating different moments of emergence and subsequent change within political institutions in a variety of systems and cultures, this book suggests a new approach to explore the relationship between modern politics and emotions. Feeling political, we argue, does not come about as something individual and singular, nor does it simply follow the dominant norms of entire societies. Rather, it depends on collectively mobilized and shared attitudes, inclinations, and sensibilities, which are learnt, acquired, and negotiated in institutions. Emotion is thus a pivotal factor in institutional processes, political change, and social transformation.

Eleven case studies explore how the institutional templating of emotions has worked historically, focusing on decisive moments of emergence from European and US history from the end of the eighteenth century to today.

The book’s selective geographical settings make it possible to foreground how emotional templating both reflected and contributed to the increasingly participatory character of nineteenth- and twentieth-century politics. This was due to the continuity of concepts throughout this period: while politics, institutions, emotion, and participation played out differently across Europe, the historical interdependence of countries now known as the Western world permits a comparative and integrative analysis. Each case study clarifies how emotions became crucial to people’s political involvement and their propagation and/or transformation of institutional work.

Combining in-depth analyses of individual cases with a foray into the methods of the history of emotions, the book’s chapters focus on some of the most prominent political institutions as they have developed during the modern age. They cover parliaments and bureaucracies as well as open-air rallies and demonstrations, courts of justice, and clubs and associations. They pay attention to how political feelings are templated through visual and auditory media. They zoom in on meticulously arranged sites and spaces designed to elicit particular feelings in those who visited them.

Our account is guided by a focus on institutions. We begin with case studies that explore the establishment of institutions, in order to analyse how feeling rules are set up and learnt. Francesco Buscemi looks at French bureaucracy since its establishment in 1789, given that public administration is a major element of modern political institutions. Contrary to current opinion—and perhaps counter-intuitively—it is heavily imbued with emotions. In post-revolutionary France, civil servants were encouraged to develop particular kinds of feelings in order to be considered good republicans and loyal servants to the sovereign state. While the absolute monarchy and Napoleon built the political framework of what is now the French Fifth Republic, the real life of state institutions was moulded by the changing emotions of the public servants who worked in and for them, and the visible tensions between their emotional templates and practices. Synchronized civic oaths and certificates attest that all state employees were expected to share the same political faith during the French Revolution. The design and goals of two different National Schools of Administration, one founded in 1848 and one in 1945, show how different regimes nurtured the political emotions that were considered a requirement for bureaucratic service.

This is followed by Philipp Nielsen’s investigation of how emotions have been navigated within German parliamentary buildings. With the rise of participatory politics in the nineteenth century, parliaments were established and buildings constructed or appropriated across Europe and the US. The history of such buildings, among them the Reichstag in Berlin, shows that emotions were not only felt within their walls, but built into their architectural spaces. Parliamentarians created their own rules of behaviour, all of which had a spatial dimension: how to sit, where to sit, when to speak, when not to speak, and how to deal with those not following these rules, for instance, by expelling them from the chambers or assembly halls. In their relationality to the bodies of parliamentarians, these spaces and rules reflected assumptions about emotions, democratic or otherwise.

Scaling up to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Agnes Arndt contributes a study on the emotionality and emotion work leading up to its founding. Like bureaucracy, international criminal jurisprudence is designed to be strictly neutral, apolitical, and unemotional. At the same time, it faces a challenge in reconciling globally differing feelings about what constitutes justice and how it should be administered. Drawing on the role played by Benjamin Ferencz, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, in establishing the ICC, this chapter examines how emotions were present from the outset in the discussions about the court’s jurisdiction: the institutionalization of the ICC was a reaction to individually and collectively articulated emotions.

The next two chapters investigate how institutions communicate with a wider public. The rise of new technologies, such as the newspaper, radio, television, and the internet, expanded the audience of political speech beyond the walls of parliament and the physical proximity of the speaker. Continuing the thread of institutional founding from the first three chapters, but shifting attention to the media as decisive in political communication, Kerstin Maria Pahl’s chapter on portrayals of American presidents explores both the set-up of a new template—the ‘statesman-like’ style—and discusses how institutions connect with and shape the populace. Through careful emotion management, curated portrayals of politicians address the population, direct political opinion, promote certain types of leaders, convey moral values, and bolster narratives. Analysing the painted portraits of three American presidents, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Barack Obama, the chapter shows how these images not only depict emotional styles as a sort of code of conduct for the incumbent, but also spur emotions by fostering either support or, conversely, disaffection. Presidential portraits project notions of belonging by making their subjects both relatable and exceptional.

Michael Amico’s study of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats (1933–1944) complements the longue durée approach of the previous chapter by zooming in on the case of a president directly addressing the people, seeking to foreground their active participation. Roosevelt’s broadcasts, a series of thirty-one radio speeches heard by a majority of Americans between 1933 and 1945, transformed institutional tasks and obligations into a highly exciting conversation. In a world of competing political rhetoric and much division, and in the middle of the Great Depression, these radio chats put the power of change in every American’s hands by making them feel a new sense of confidence and trust in the federal government. Even those who were not directly helped by Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ legislation wrote to him to say how his words and images had converted their anxiety, grievance, and fury into courage and hope. They promised to do all they could to help him and the country, a commitment that served to boost morale and further unite the country during the Second World War. The particular style and means of Roosevelt’s emotional templates were informed by his personality as a politician, his philosophy of democracy, and the medium of radio itself.

Broadening the outlook, the next chapters depart from a single-institution focus to show how institutions also compete for the emotions of citizens. Together, they offer a comparison between how different political systems—democratic or fascist—templated emotions. After 1918, many European countries grappled with the establishment of a ceremony to commemorate fallen soldiers. Karsten Lichau illustrates how, in France, the emotional set-up of these ceremonies articulated the disputes between different institutions such as the state, the church, and veterans’ organizations. While most ex-soldiers’ groups favoured an event centring a posture of humble mourning and devotion, and although the Catholic Church sided with the veterans’ ‘funereal physiognomy’, the state was opposed to this, preferring a more traditional approach of ‘glorification and triumph’. Over the course of several years, the conflict gave rise to new emotional templates that in turn transformed and restructured the emotional framework of those institutions.

Roughly two decades later, Mussolini’s Fascist regime politicized the remembrance of the First World War by linking a narrative of heroism to specific notions of grief. Hannah Malone’s study reveals that, given the scale of Italy’s losses in the war, commemoration of the fallen was a highly emotional issue and thus gave the regime a powerful means of political communication. As the Fascist authorities sought to exploit feelings towards the dead for the purpose of mobilizing the living Italian population, emotions came to define the political agenda. In seeking a high degree of emotional control, the Italian dictatorship elaborated on strategies of manipulation that were later imitated by other authoritarian powers, including Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain. Ossuaries from the time provide evidence of the political intentions of the Fascist regime and the emotional responses that visitors were meant to feel. Architecture and its surrounding discourse thus acted as carriers of emotional messages with political intent.

The book then moves away from clearly delineated ‘institutions’ and turns toward more diversified and non-traditional institutions and institutional forms. The exploration of shared mourning in the previous chapters continues, surprisingly, with a study of sport. The German football club FC Schalke 04 derives its current image and emotional templates from the mourning practices marking the end of coal mining in the region. Throughout the twentieth century, Schalke repeatedly became involved in participatory politics, despite its allegedly apolitical nature as a leisure club. Governments, political parties, and local magistrates sought to use Schalke fans’ emotional relationship with the club for their own ends. Because of its capacity to unite people in times of crisis, the club itself developed into a significant political player in its home city of Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia, during the crises of deindustrialization in the mid-1990s.

Staying within the culture of clubs and associations, the next chapter explores yet another seemingly non-political institution, which, through its capacity to create a community, was used for spreading political feelings and messages. Communal singing was one of the main practices in youth organizations of the twentieth century. Singing specific songs, especially from the labour movement, made it possible for young people to learn political emotions and attitudes. Singing in a community could convey desired values, attitudes, and emotions and, ideally, harmonize them. The song Wann wir schreiten Seit’ an Seit’ (When we stride side by side, 1913) was the most important song of the social democratic youth movement in the 1920s, subsequently adapted and modified by the Hitler Youth during the National Socialist era and later sung by youth organizations in both Germanies. Its history shows how the repeated, communal singing of certain songs, even in very different contexts, could establish political emotions such as hope for a better future.

The last two chapters connect with the togetherness inherent in clubs and associations. But they also circle back to the beginning of the book to show how new forms that challenge traditional institutions eventually become new institutions in their own right. The long history of international solidarity movements throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries bears witness, as Caroline Moine demonstrates, to the role emotions played in political mobilizations that transcended national borders. Emotions fostered a sense of common belonging in the name of so-called universal brotherhood, solidarity of peoples, or human rights. Investigating exemplary political mobilizations in Europe, such as the Philhellenism of the 1820s, the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), and against the Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s helps to illustrate the strengths but also the limits of feelings of international solidarity. These movements, which shaped and were shaped by individual and collective emotions such as compassion, fear, and anger, but also enthusiasm and hope, developed a complex relationship with patriotism and universalism, as well as with the state and other political institutions.

Moving back to the national level, but further elaborating on social movements, the book concludes with Ute Frevert’s chapter on street politics in Germany. Before the establishment of elected parliaments, there were social movements in which citizens united to make public demands for political representation. The practice of democracy in such associations was synonymous with practising political feelings—democracy involved a high level of emotional excitement and dynamism. The decades preceding the 1848 revolution, the post-revolutionary 1920s and early 1930s (including National Socialist mobilization), and the social movements of the 1970s and 1980s illustrate how emotions served as mobilizing forces and were necessary for sustaining personal involvement and political activism. Yet these examples also shed light on the problematic side of political emotions, which could sometimes block or polarize political debate and obstruct collective action. The more action in the public sphere was defined by passion, the more exclusionary politics could become: this was the argument mounted by early liberalism against women’s political participation. This final chapter should be read in lieu of a general conclusion. Rather than risking dilution of our complex findings, we close with a study that neatly exemplifies the overall aims, claims, and concepts of the book.