Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-54vk6 Total loading time: 0.668 Render date: 2022-08-10T01:43:15.640Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Theorizing emotions in world politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2014

Emma Hutchison*
The University of Queensland, Australia
Roland Bleiker*
The University of Queensland, Australia


Emotions play an increasingly important role in international relations research. This essay briefly surveys the development of the respective debates and then offers a path forward. The key challenge, we argue, is to theorize the processes through which individual emotions become collective and political. We further suggest that this is done best by exploring insights from two seemingly incompatible scholarly tendencies: macro theoretical approaches that develop generalizable propositions about political emotions and, in contrast, micro approaches that investigate how specific emotions function in specific circumstances. Applying this framework we then identify four realms that are central to appreciating the political significance of emotions: (1) the importance of definitions; (2) the role of the body; (3) questions of representation; and (4) the intertwining of emotions and power. Taken together, these building blocks reveal how emotions permeate world politics in complex and interwoven ways and also, once taken seriously, challenge many entrenched assumptions of international relations scholarship.

Forum: Emotions and World Politics
© Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Abu-Lughod, Lila, and Lutz, Catherine A.. 1990. “Introduction: Emotion, Discourse, and the Politics of Everyday Life.” In Language and the Politics of Emotion, edited by Lila Abu-Lughod, and Catherine A. Lutz, 123. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Ahmed, Sara. 2004. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
Barbalet, Jack M. 2001. Emotion, Social Theory, and Social Structure: A Macrosociological Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bially Mattern, Janice. 2011. “A Practice Theory of Emotion for International Relations.” In International Practices, edited by Emanuel Adler, 6386. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bially Mattern, Janice 2014. “On Being Convinced: An Emotional Epistemology of International Relations.” International Theory 6(3):589594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bleiker, Roland. 2009. Aesthetics and World Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bleiker, Roland. and Hutchison, Emma. 2008. “Fear No More: Emotions and World Politics.” Review of International Studies 34(S1):115135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Booth, Ken, and Wheeler, Nicholas J.. 2007. The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation, and Trust in World Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
Callahan, William A. 2004. “National Insecurities: Humiliation, Salvation and Chinese Nationalism.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 29(2):199218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Caracciolo, Marco. 2012. “Narrative, Meaning, Interpretation: An Enactivist Approach.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11:367384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clore, Gerald L., and Huntsinger, Jeffrey R.. 2009. “How the Object of Affect Guides its Impact.” Emotion Review 1(1):3954.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Coan, James A. 2010. “Emergent Ghosts of the Emotion Machine.” Emotion Review 2(3):274285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crawford, Neta C. 2000. “The Passion of World Politics: Propositions on Emotions and Emotional Relationships.” International Security 24(4):116136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crawford, Neta C. 2009. “Human Nature and World Politics: Rethinking ‘Man’.” International Relations 23(2):271288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crawford, Neta C. 2014. “Institutionalizing Passion in World Politics: Fear and Empathy.” International Theory 6(3):535557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cunningham, William A., Dunfield, Kristen A., and Stillman, Paul E.. 2013. “Emotional States from Affective Dynamics.” Emotion Review 5(4):344355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Damasio, Antonio. 2000. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
de Sousa, Ronald. 1987. The Rationality of Emotion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Digeser, Paul. 2009. “Friendship Between States.” British Journal of Political Science 39(2):323344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edkins, Jenny. 2003. Trauma and the Memory of Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elster, Jon. 1999. Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Eznack, Lucile. 2011. “Crises as Signals of Strength: The Significance of Affect in Close Allies’ Relationships.” Security Studies 20(2):238265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eznack, Lucile 2013. “The Mood was Grave: Affective Dispositions and States’ Anger-Related Behaviour.” Contemporary Security Policy 34(3):552580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fattah, Khaled, and Fierke, K.M.. 2009. “A Clash of Emotions: The Politics of Humiliation and Political Violence in the Middle East.” European Journal of International Relations 15(1):6793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fierke, K.M. 2002. “The Liberation of Kosovo: Emotion and the Ritual Reenactment of War.” Focal: European Journal of Anthropology 39:93113.Google Scholar
Fierke, K.M. 2004. “Whereof We Can Speak, Thereof We Must Not Be Silent: Trauma, Political Solipsism and War.” Review of International Studies 30(4):471491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fierke, K.M. 2013. Political Self-Sacrifice: Agency, Body and Emotion in International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Fierke, K.M. 2014. “Emotion and Intentionality.” International Theory 6(3):563567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Frijda, Nico H. 1986. The Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Gallagher, Shaun, and Varga, Somogy. 2014. “Social Constraints on the Direct Perception of Emotion and Intentions.” Topoi: An International Review of Philosophy 33:185199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gammon, Earl. 2008. “Affect and the Rise of the Self-Regulatory Market.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37(2):251278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hall, Todd H. 2011. “We Will Not Swallow This Bitter Fruit: Theorizing the Diplomacy of Anger.” Security Studies 20(4):521555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harré, Rom. ed. 1986. The Social Construction of Emotions. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
Hill, Christopher. 2003. The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. Houndmills: Palgrave.Google Scholar
Holmes, Marcus. 2013. ‘Believing This and Alieving That: Theorizing Affect and Intuitions in International Politics’. Manuscript.Google Scholar
Hochschild, Arlie. 1979. “Emotion Work, Feeling Rules and Social Structure.” American Journal of Sociology 85(3):551575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huebner, Bryce. 2011. “Genuine Collective Emotions.” European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1(1):89118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hutchison, Emma. 2014. “A Global Politics of Pity? Disaster Imagery and the Emotional Construction of Solidarity after the 2004 Asian Tsunami.” International Political Sociology 8(1):119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hutto, Daniel D. 2012. “Truly Enactive Emotion.” Emotion Review 4(2):176181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jeffery, Renée. 2011. “Reason, Emotion and the Problem of World Poverty: Moral Sentiment Theory and International Ethics.” International Theory 3(1):143178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jeffery, Renée 2014. Reason and Emotion in International Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jervis, Robert. 1976. Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Jervis, Robert, Lebow, Richard N. and Stein, Janice Gross. 1985. Psychology and Deterrence. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Koschut, Simon. 2014. “Emotional (Security) Communities: The Significance of Emotion Norms in Inter-Allied Conflict Management.” Review of International Studies 40(3):533558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lebow, Richard N. 2006. “Fear, Interest and Honor: Outlines of a Theory of International Relations.” International Affairs 82(3):431448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
LeDoux, Joseph E. 1995. “Emotion: Clues from the Brain.” Annual Review of Psychology 46:209235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leys, Ruth. 2011. “The Turn to Affect: A Critique.” Critical Inquiry 37(3):434472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ling, L.H.M. 2014. “Decolonizing the International: Towards Multiple Emotional Worlds.” International Theory 6(3):579583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Linklater, Andrew. 2011. The Problem of Harm in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Linklater, Andrew 2014. “Anger and World Politics: How Collective Emotions Shift Over Time.” International Theory 6(3):574578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Löwenheim, Oded, and Heimann, Gadi. 2008. “Revenge in International Politics.” Security Studies 17(4):685724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lutz, Catherine A. 1988. Unnatural Emotions: Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and their Challenge to Western Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McDermott, Rose. 2011. “New Directions for Experimental Work in International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly 55(2):503520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McDermott, Rose 2014. “The Body Doesn’t Lie: A Somatic Approach to the Study of Emotions in World Politics.” International Theory 6(3):557562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mercer, Jonathan. 1996. ‘Approaching Emotion in International Politics’. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, San Diego, California, April 25.Google Scholar
Mercer, Jonathan 2005. “Rationality and Psychology in International Politics.” International Organization 59(1):77106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mercer, Jonathan 2006. “Human Nature and the First Image: Emotion in International Politics.” Journal of International Relations and Development 9:288303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mercer, Jonathan 2010. “Emotional Beliefs.” International Organization 64(1):131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mercer, Jonathan 2013. “Emotion and Strategy in the Korean War.” International Organization 67(2):221252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mercer, Jonathan 2014. “Feeling Like a State: Social Emotion and Identity.” International Theory 6(3):515535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nussbaum, Martha C. 2001. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petersen, Roger D. 2002. Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred and Resentment in Twentieth Century Eastern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pupavac, Vanessa. 2004. “War on the Couch: The Emotionality of the New International Security Paradigm.” European Journal of Social Theory 7(2):149170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robin, Corey. 2004. Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Rosaldo, Michelle. 1980. Knowledge and Passion: Ilongot Notions of Self and Social Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Andrew A.G. 2006. “Coming in from the Cold: Emotions and Constructivism.” European Journal of International Relations 12(2):197222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Andrew A.G. 2013. “Realism, Emotion, and Dynamic Allegiances in Global Politics.” International Theory 5(2):273299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Andrew A.G. 2014. Mixed Emotions: Beyond Hatred in International Conflict. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
Ruzicka, Jan, and Wheeler, Nicholas J.. 2010. “The Puzzle of Trusting Relationships in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” International Affairs 86(1):6985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sasley, Brent. 2010. “Affective Attachments and Foreign Policy: Israel and the 1993 Oslo Accords.” European Journal of International Relations 16(4):687709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sasley, Brent 2011. “Theorizing States’ Emotions.” International Studies Review 13(3):453476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Saurette, Paul. 2006. “You Dissin Me? Humiliation and Post 9/11 Global Politics.” Review of International Studies 32(3):495522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scheff, Thomas J. 1990. Microsociology: Discourse, Emotion and Social Structure. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
Scherer, Klaus R. 2005. “What are Emotions? And How Can They Be Measured?Social Science Information 44(4):695729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Solomon, Ty. 2012. “I was Angry Because I Couldn’t Believe it was Happening: Affect and Discourse in Response to 9/11.” Review of International Studies 38(4):907928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steele, Brent J. 2010. Defacing Power: The Aesthetics of Insecurity in Global Politics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Svašek, Maruška. 2005. “Introduction: Emotions in Anthropology.” In Mixed Emotions: Anthropological Studies in Feel, edited by Kay Milton and Maruška Svašek 124. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
Thien, Deborah. 2005. “After or Beyond Feeling? A Consideration of Affect and Emotion in Geography.” Area 37(4):450456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thrift, Nigel. 2004. “Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect.” Geogrfiska Annaler: Series B 86(1):5778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tuathail, Gearóid Ó. 2003. “‘Just Out Looking For a Fight’: American Affect and the Invasion of Iraq.” Antipode 35(5):856870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Widmaier, Wesley W. 2010. “Emotions Before Paradigms: Elite Anxiety and Populist Resentment from the Asian to Subprime Crises.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 39(1):127144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolf, Reinhard. 2012. “Der ‘emotionale turn’ in den IB: Plädoyer für eine theoretische Überwindung methodischer Engführung.” Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik 5(1):605624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wright, Sarah. 2012. “Emotional Geographies of Development.” Third World Quarterly 33(6):11131127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zehfuss, Maja. 2007. Wounds of Memory: The Politics of War in Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Theorizing emotions in world politics
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Theorizing emotions in world politics
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Theorizing emotions in world politics
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *