Emotions and Affect as Source, Outcome and Resistance to Inequality

  • Steven Foy
  • Robert Freeland
  • Andrew Miles
  • Kimberly B. Rogers
  • Lynn Smith-LovinEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


While sociologists usually focus on the material aspects of inequality, its emotional outcomes are one of the reasons we care about it. People who occupy the lower positions in unequal social structures experience negative, impotent, and unengaged feelings that depress their quality of life. This chapter explores how affective meanings, transmitted by cultural systems and individual interactional experiences, help to create and re-create patterns of inequality. We first explore how affective meanings translate cultural sentiments into local interactions, creating inequality as it is experienced in everyday life. Self-identities and emotional responses of the stigmatized often reinforce these cultural responses, leading the disadvantaged to self-destructive responses. After discussing how affect and emotion create inequality, we discuss the related topic of how people experience structural emotions as a result of occupying a disadvantaged social position. We document the stress of not being able to verify valued identities or control life circumstances. Finally, we discuss the ways in which emotions can motivate people to resist inequality, by forming coalitions through affective commitments, by recognizing solidarity with other like-minded people in social movements, and by forming subcultures where affective meanings can generate positive structural emotions.


Emotion Affect Affect control theory Identity theory Stigma Stereotype 


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Copyright information

© Springer Sciences + Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Foy
    • 2
  • Robert Freeland
    • 1
  • Andrew Miles
    • 1
  • Kimberly B. Rogers
    • 3
  • Lynn Smith-Lovin
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SociologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyThe University of Texas-Pan AmericanEdinburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyMount Holyoke CollegeSouth HadleyUSA

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