Emotional Idioms of Capitalism
The research professorship “Emotional Idioms of Capitalism” examines the relationship between capitalism and subjectivity and the impact of the capitalist workplace on emotional life (with a particular emphasis on emotional distress, given its economic and human significance). Consequently, research is situated within the interface between the sociology of emotions, sociology of capitalism, and mental health. Using data from two countries in Europe, the project focuses on five professional groups representative of different dimensions of capitalism ― low-skilled workers and middle managers (industrial capitalism), creative workers (aesthetic capitalism), business and financial elites (financial capitalism), and self-entrepreneurs in the gig economy (digital capitalism) ― in order to comprehensively analyze the qualitative and rich relationship between well-known features of the capitalist workplace (such as precariousness, competition, rapid obsolescence of skills, and risk-taking) and the emotional experiences they presuppose and entail, such as emotional inadequacy, elasticity, self-branding and others. The ultimate goal is to show that much of what therapeutic institutions identify and process as “psychological distress” is anchored in and shaped by the critical features of capitalism. Using qualitative analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of the relationship between capitalism and subjectivity, two objectives should be achieved: to show that capitalism, the most significant institutional framework of modern life, is the pivot around which our current mental and emotional life revolves; and to document the emotional architectures and idioms of distress deployed by various socio-professional groups acting in different dimensions of capitalism. The systematic comparative analysis of the emotional idioms present in different professional groups and the comprehensive attempt to connect capitalism to emotional life will break new ground in our understanding of how economic organization and modes of production shape subjectivity.