A defence of the role of public emotion in politics.
Whether in the reception of rousing political oratory like that of de Gaulle or Martin Luther King or in the motivations of demonstrators in popular uprisings like those in Tunisia and Egypt, there is no denying that emotion and politics are connected. Nonetheless, criticism of political debate and discourse as emotionally (rather than rationally) based is ubiquitous and emotion is often presented as a negative factor in politics. Public Passion shows that reason and emotion are not mutually exclusive and restores the legitimacy of shared emotion in political life.
Taking a broad historical perspective, Public Passion traces the role of emotion in political thought from its prominence in classical sources, through its resuscitation by Montesquieu, to the present moment. Combining intellectual history, philosophy, and political theory, Rebecca Kingston develops a sophisticated account of collective emotion that demonstrates how popular sentiment is compatible with debate, pluralism, and individual agency and shows how emotion shapes the tone of interactions among citizens. She also analyzes the ways in which emotions are shared and transmitted among citizens of a particular regime, paying particular attention to the connection between political institutions and the psychological dispositions that they foster.
Public Passion presents illuminating new ways to appreciate the forms of popular will and reveals that emotional understanding by citizens may in fact be the very basis through which a commitment to principles of justice can be sustained.