In this chapter, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen argues for the importance of considering the role of emotion in political communication. Throughout the history of liberal democratic thought, she explains, emotion has been treated as the polar opposite of reason and rationality, and therefore as the enemy of good citizenship. This presumption has carried over into dominant ways of analyzing mediated public participation, as exemplified in Habermas's theory of the public sphere. There is nonetheless growing empirical evidence that emotion is central in motivating and shaping political participation. Therefore, a careful consideration of the power of emotion to mobilize citizens has much to offer the field. Wahl-Jorgensen emphasizes the need to better understand the complex consequences of affective engagements in politics. She suggests that some forms of political discourse designed to elicit emotional reaction may have integrative possibilities insofar as they can foster empathy and solidarity, while others – ones that foster hatred and intolerance – may contribute to the breakdown of debate. Either way, emotion is an indispensable and growing resource in political life that we ignore at our peril.
Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.