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Emotions and Loyalty again

May 15, 2013

Back to James Connor‘s The sociology of loyalty for another moment or two… (these are all his quotes):

Concluding this work, Connor writes: “Loyalty can be understood as an emotion because of its similarity to many other emotional states in the way we feel and interpret it. It is conjured through social contacts, with both people and institutions, like other emotions. Loyalty can motivate us to do things we would not otherwise consider, such as going to war for our country, or lying to protect a loved one. It can be used to justify many behaviours and reactions, both good and bad, in the same way that other emotions are used to justify some behaviour (for example, she was so sad that it is not surprising she refused to speak, or so angry that yelling was understandable).” (p.142)

It is undeniable that the body mediates emotion through biological mediums—but the meanings attached are social.” (p.130)

“…an actor needs to be socialised into their loyalties. Learning what was an appropriate target for loyalty was a key component of exhibiting it properly and that an actor could not be loyal to an object, event or idea that was not socially acceptable (to at least some).” (p.130)  “…this explains why it is difficult for an actor to have a loyalty to concepts that are not generally accepted as appropriate loyalty targets, such as humanity, because there is a lack of an ‘other’.” (p.130) “The proof of this is in the very [-p.131] representations of when actors can attach loyalty to humanity, such as in many science fiction stories where it becomes humanity versus the alien other. My central case study of represented loyalty, BtVS [Buffy the Vampire Slayer], further supports this case as the characters on occasion do have a greater loyalty to humanity (usually couched in terms of ‘saving the world’ in episodes). They have this loyalty because there is the threat from the other and it is acceptable within that social context to attach loyalty to humanity. The reliance of Buffy on the mantra that ‘it is the mission that matters’ most exemplifies this loyalty layer. In terms of loyalty targets and ‘others’, it will be intriguing to see if concepts such as ‘climate change’ or ‘globalisation’ can manifest a loyalty response in the future.
Conflict is an enduring theme of loyalty-based interactions. One avenue of explanation for this is offered by the concept of layering as this acknowledges that inevitably actors will have competing demands made on their loyalties.” (pp.130-131) “Family is often an intense site of emotional conflict as loyalty betrayed in that context often has very real and immediate consequences.” (p.131)

“As part of conflict and layering I postulated that actors would have a set hierarchy of loyalty. Drawing on the problematic postulations of an intelligence interrogator, I sought to explore which layer of loyalty is strongest and why. The answer, albeit tentative and requiring more empirical study, is that the family is the strongest layer of loyalty with the social distance of the subsequent layers determining the strength. What I mean by this is that actors tend to be most loyal to what is closest to them, both emotionally and physically. In other words, the stronger and tighter their immersion in a particular social milieu the more likely that loyalty will surface. Thus [-p.132] family is strongest, followed by friends, intermediate personal commitments/belief systems (like religion, sport and politics) and finally wider social structures such as the nation.” (pp.131-132)

“…in particular historical moments another layer may become more salient to the actor. The reactions of people during war and conflict illustrate how a wider loyalty, that to the nation, can become the most dominant loyalty layer. This observation helps explain how particular macro-social processes can draw on latent loyalties and why these appeals can be so motivating. The conscription debates illustrate this point by demonstrating that at particular times, the social milieu can over-ride competing loyalty layers and draw upon specific loyalties for the furtherance of social goals. In this example it was the defence of Empire and country. It also helps explicate why the loyalty conflict during these particular moments can be so intense, as shown by the viciousness of the attacks based on actors’ perceived competing loyalties.” (p.132)

Loyalty and Identity

On the topic of loyalty and identity, Connor observes: “It is a given that we all have an identity. The purpose of placing loyalty and identity together was to ascertain whether loyalty plays a role in furnishing individual and group identities. Broadly, I characterised this by suggesting that loyalty operates to mediate an actor’s connection with other people and institutions, which in turn helps to construct an actor’s identity position. As a component of this, loyalties also offer belonging and identification with particular people, causes, places and institutions.
Role theory is one means of conceptualising identity formation (Gerth and Mills, 1964). Drawing on this theory, I postulated that loyalty may act as an emotional marker to indicate which role, and hence identity, an actor should be performing. My exploration of roles within the case studies allowed me to conclude that loyalty does help the actor perform appropriate roles. It does this by orienting the actor to their current social circumstances based on previous interactions. Hence, when an actor comes to the defence of their object of loyalty, they are performing a particular role.” (p.132)

“An actor can have belonging without loyalty. However, when the emotional investment that loyalty implies is part of the belonging, the actor will be encouraged to greater levels of identification, feeling and outright passion with regards to that loyalty. This is why those who are loyal to a concept may passionately defend it—they belong to it and it consequently forms part of their being. This is qualitatively different from, and beyond, any sort of contractual belonging an actor may have—the key difference is the attachment of feeling, mediated through loyalty.” (p.133)

The evidence suggests that emotion is an important component of identity formation as it mediates between the actor and the social world. Emotions guide the actor to aspects of their existence that are relevant and therefore part of their identity.” (p.133)

Barbalet (2002) argues that emotion is central to sociology as no action can occur in a society without emotional involvement. Consequently, how those emotions guide, direct and motivate the actor should be a key concern of sociology. I have sought to demonstrate how loyalty is involved in these processes.” (p.133)

loyalty helps guide action.” (p.133)

“loyalty has motivational qualities.” (p.133)

Emotion, as I take the term to mean in the context of this work, is a socially negotiated feeling, behaviour and cognitive state that an individual experiences as a consequence of interactions within the world. These emotions are defined by the actor’s particular social and historical milieu and serve to orient the actor to events, people and interactions that are relevant to them. Emotion does not have to be recognised. It can simmer below conscious reflection. Emotion is also embodied, the actor must use bodily senses to understand and participate in the world. This does not mean that emotions are hereditary in an evolutionary manner—physical sensations are, the labels and social relationships attached to them are not. Emotion can also be self-generated, but this generation (such as contemplation) occurs within the actor’s perceived social milieu.

“I contend that loyalty is an emotion that reflects attachment to something or someone the actor cares about. The attachment is stable and deep because of the social functions loyalty serves. It links the actor to social groups, it helps to define identity and motivates action. Loyalty operates at different layers and these layers are always simmering as part of an actor’s emotional existence. Which layer is most salient is a product of social interactions. The simultaneous loyalties of an actor to different people, places, institutions, concepts and ideas is often a cause of conflict.” (p.134)

“…actors appraise and reflect on their loyalties often. Indeed it is the stock of stories, art and literature about loyalty that helps construe the meaning and expression of the emotion. This cognitive aspect is particularly relevant when loyalty is not reciprocated and becomes disloyalty.” (p.137)

Loyalty has a clear social context and existence. It manifests itself by and through social interaction. It is quintessentially a social emotion as it would not exist without a social structure. The cultural considerations of loyalty are also present and were demonstrated in this book by analysing how loyalty operates in different cultural times and contexts. The most powerful example of cultural and social relativity and specificity is the way loyalty has changed in western society since feudal times, through the rise of nation states and onto diverse and diffuse targets now, mirroring social complexities and structures.” (p.137)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) James Connor (2007) The sociology of loyalty. New York: Springer Verlag


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