Governing 'emotional' life: passions, moral sentiments and emotions

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2014
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The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century statement that passions and not inactive reason are the motives that decisively influence the will and constitute the true drivers of human action promoted a new object of problematization and control on the part of the theoreticians of the art of government. Since then, a battle has waged over the general designations and definitions of what 'emotional' life is, and different dispositives of 'emotional' power (or pathospower) have been developed as central mechanisms for governing human beings. Analysing the British discourse on governmentality from the period, I recount the history of the emergence of the three main modern concepts of 'emotional' life and of its respective power strategies: passions in the discourse of utilitarian liberalism, moral sentiments in the discourse of conservatism, and emotions in biological and evolutionist psychology that underlies eugenic politics. © 2014 University of Rome 'La Sapienza'.


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