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Ana Marta González and Lourdes Flamarique discuss the change in the 'emotional regime' of our societies.

The reflections of these researchers take place in the framework of the publication of two volumes of the ICS ' project 'Emotional culture and identity'.

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Ana Marta González and Lourdes Flamarique. PHOTO: Manuel Castells
05/12/13 10:18

The project 'Emotional culture and identity ' of the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra, sponsored by Zurich Insurancehas recently published two books " -TheEmotions and Cultural Analysis (Ashgate, 2012) and Emotions and Lifestyles. Radiografía de nuestro tiempo (Library Services Nueva, 2013)-in which they explore aspects of contemporary "emotional culture". On the occasion of both publications, Ana Marta González - director of project- and Lourdes Flamarique -team member researcher - discuss the change in the "emotional regime" of our societies, a change that can be seen in a multitude of cultural manifestations and small everyday practices, from the modification of the codes that regulate gender relations to the reformulation of the private and the public.

Ana Marta González (AMG). A glance at the evolution of advertising, television content, etc., is enough to appreciate a clear increase in emotionality, often to the detriment of substantive content and rational arguments. The emotional patterns reflected in language, social life and lifestyles can help us to interpret cultural change. Emotivism", problematic from an ethical point of view, nevertheless offers an "opportunity" to address anew the question of who or what man is. It would be a mistake not to notice that, for many of our contemporaries, the thirst for emotion has to do with the search for clues, clues, about who we are: by seeing how things affect us we know something about ourselves. Certainly, in this area emotion alone tells us little, for we would not be able to appreciate its meaning unless we interpreted it in the light of certain ideas and values.

Lourdes Flamarique (LF). Emotional life is undoubtedly a great showcase for our yearnings, desires, aspirations, projects, and also for our conception of life and the world, our moral convictions, the imaginary with which we weave our personal and collective dreams.

AMG. I think one area where the relationship between emotions and cultural change can be observed is in the relationship between the genders. Here the changes have been very noticeable. For a long time, the only public code of gender relations was the romantic code. The massive incorporation of women into the world of work has radically changed this status: there are now other codes, which have their origin in the demands of professional life, and which make possible the emergence of new forms of relationship between men and women, the relationship between colleagues, friends, etc. This also means that emotional patterns are different.

LF. The latter also implies that some "clichés" about friendship deserve to be revised in the light of the possibilities of understanding and, therefore, of appreciation and coexistence between men and women that the professional world offers. In line with contemporary experience and sensibility, the television narrative has long since registered the change in professional relations between men and women, and in the consolidation of new social codes. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the presence of women in areas where traditionally there were only men -universities, sporting events, companies...- has significantly modified the relations and rules that govern these environments. No less interesting is the fact that men have been introduced into practices previously considered exclusively "feminine": shopping, buying for the family, the house, decoration... This is probably more common among men with a certain level educational and social status.

AMG. Consequently, the change in the emotional regime also translates into a certain blurring of the boundaries between the private and the public, at least as they were conceived a couple of centuries ago, when the private was mainly associated with feeling and women, and the public with rationality and men. Our era, culturally, has inherited both the ideal of rationality and the ideal of self-expressiveness, and experiences the tensions derived from trying to combine both ideals in a social context that is also marked by a profound transformation of gender relations: it is not just a matter of being rational in the public sphere and "ourselves" in private life. It is about being "ourselves" at all times, which on internship means being able to take on the rational demands of the professional internship as an important part of ourselves. This is a very demanding ideal, which requires cultivating a sufficiently strong and flexible idea of our own identity to articulate the different aspects of our life, without confusing the levels and languages of each sphere.

LF. The redefinition of the private and the public takes place on several fronts. The incorporation of women into the professional world and the greater involvement of men in domestic life make it easier for both to bring home the social world of work and, vice versa, to incorporate family life into their set of experiences and values. The old division is no longer valid and the sources of learning in life are defined by other characters.

AMG. But what is at stake is not just "role changes", but the finding of human possibilities that were latent, waiting for an opportune context to develop. Cultural changes often provoke judgements lacking weight and perspective, because, while they are taking place, we only appreciate the revolution of our inherited routines and ways of doing things. While it is true that many customs help to preserve certain truths, it is also true that, with the passage of time, they can lose their original meaning and become a hindrance to human growth. It is therefore necessary to evaluate practices and customs according to principles, and to realise that principles can be realised in many ways. Without ignoring the ambiguities and confusions that come with changes in gender roles and relations, I believe that we are facing an eminently positive cultural consequence of modernity, which in general terms represents a clear wealth for all, as it allows the development of possibilities of human nature hitherto practically unheard of, not only for women, but also for men. In my opinion, the progressivism-conservatism dialectic constitutes a misguided approach also on this issue.

LF. Indeed, before concluding that this change has taken place at the expense of other values, for example those offered by the family, it is worth considering which model family is under threat. Throughout the 20th century, the dominant model has been the "urban" family, consisting almost exclusively of parents and children; in such a family, parents are responsible not only for the economic maintenance and social play of its members, but, living inwardly, the family world sustained by parents is the main framework of the development and maturation of children. Family life is "privatised", radically modifying the emotional relations of parents and children; the educational task is no longer a shared responsibility with other people linked by kinship, but primarily that of the father and mother. The question, now as always, is whether we are able to discover how to realise in today's culture, with its possibilities and limitations, the genuine family institution, which throughout history has presented itself in various forms, with its achievements and shortcomings.

AMG. It is striking that so-called "family values" are on the rise, precisely when, judging by the high rate of separations, leave birth rate, etc., the "traditional" family seems to be going through a deep crisis. It is as if "family values" have acquired an existence independent of their natural anchorage in the family institution, to settle in an ideal world from which they could eventually be projected to any form of coexistence. We should ask ourselves why this has happened, what exactly it is that we have idealised and why.

One factor of change has undoubtedly been the entry of women into the world of work. You cannot change the public sphere without changing the private sphere, for they are interdependent; you cannot change the work regime without affecting the family regime. But these transformations do not in themselves have a negative or positive reading: that will depend on the spirit, magnanimous or petty, that animates men and women in both public and private life. The culture of any age is itself ambivalent: while highlighting some aspects it obscures others. To those who see a contrast between profession and motherhood, I would say that it would be as wrong to conclude that women's depreciation of motherhood is a consequence of their appreciation of professional life as it would be to expect women to appreciate motherhood as much as they depreciate professional life. This subject approach is not only absurd but rightly repugnant. The truth is that neither women nor men can play their lives on a single card: both men and women are domestic and political beings. It is certainly significant that for many women motherhood has ceased to be one of the indispensable elements of a fulfilling emotional life: this highlights a growing difficulty in recognising the assets at stake in motherhood. In contrast, it seems that only a career would seem to be a suitable avenue for growth staff. In my view, the cause of the devaluation of motherhood lies, rather, in a profound blurring of the reasons why both professional and family life are humanly valuable. This is a complex, but at the same time decisive issue for the life staff and social life of men and women, still dominated by clichés, which we have not reflected on with all the depth and radicalism that our times demand.

LF. This class of reflection is essential in order to be able to adequately interpret the realities in which we live, without taking as a measure patterns and values that are only presented to us as safe when they have been previously idealised. Only in this way will we be able to generate an accurate speech on cultural change; also on change in the family, so that approaches that are indebted to the social tensions of the last century, both progressive and conservative, do not dominate. The "dynamic of submission" is not only essential to motherhood, but also to fatherhood, even if other aspects of the father figure have been culturally more highly valued. Quite simply, some qualities are usually attributed to the father and others to the mother. But when we contrast with this distribution the personality of our own fathers and their relationship with their children, we see that they often do not fit this mould. That perhaps our father was in some ways more loving, or that our mother was the one who was the one who was contagiously strong in the most difficult situations. The wealth of actualisations and nuances that the human condition can present, embodied in specific people, only comes to the fore in certain social and cultural contexts: this is the case of fatherhood. The greater involvement of men in domestic organisation, but above all in the care and Education of children, has led to a series of transformations that logically affect the identity staff of men, but also the marital relationship and attention and trust with their children. This has been followed by changes in consumer habits, family leisure, etc. 

It is interesting to observe how the new style of fatherhood no longer imitates the emotional language embodied by mothers, but rather men are gradually moving more freely and appropriately when it comes to expressing their feelings as fathers; grade shows that they are more confident that their way of treating and caring for their children -or their own parents- is correct, although different from the code instituted by women. The greater weight of the father figure in everyday family life is not sufficiently appreciated, nor are the emotional "advantages" that this can have for the maturity of the children. I think this is something to be envied, something that people of my generation have hardly known about. In the same way that women, thanks to a greater social, labour and political presence, have incorporated new registers with which to interpret the "feminine condition", the greater involvement of men in family and domestic life puts "opportunities" for growth within their reach staff. Perhaps we have all learned - men and women - to develop our condition in ways unsuspected a couple of centuries ago, without ceasing to be different. It is obvious that there are many ways of being different, as well as many areas where difference is irrelevant.

Although we partly assume a categorisation of masculine and feminine, and try to interpret our personality from agreement with these typifications, when we reflect a little we realise that we have several styles or ways of expressing and defining ourselves that we can combine with a certain freedom and, moreover, in different ways throughout our lives. We should therefore speak of configurations (plural) of the masculine and the feminine.

Of course, the "emotional regime" of contemporary society affects the cultural models of masculinity and femininity, as can be seen in advertising, fashion, the use of language, leisure and consumer habits, etc. I believe that here too there are tensions that should be properly acknowledged, otherwise additional risks are introduced at stages of life that are already complicated, such as adolescence.

Identity is constituted socially: in certain aspects it depends exclusively on the current cultural models of masculinity and femininity. We should not underestimate the weight that literature, art and, nowadays, cinema, have had and still have in the configuration of the male and female typology and the relations between the two sexes. In the generalisation of archetypes, patterns and ways of distinguishing oneself, it can be seen that we depend on models and codes with which to interpret our experience, our desires and wishes. Undoubtedly, a better knowledge of these models can facilitate a freer and more conscious interpretation. In particular, ignorance of the emotional regime of our culture can lead to conflicts or divisions in our lives staff, family and professional life, as contradictions arise between the requirements of the rationality that governs the Structures and strategies with which we order our daily existence and the evaluations of this existence contained in our emotions.

In order to realise the demands of human nature in accordance with one's own time, it is essential to have an adequate understanding of the coordinates and rules that structure and orient human existence. Only in this way can we create the languages with which we signify the reality in which we live, without masking or disfiguring it, and without undervaluing or overvaluing its humanising potential. Only in this way can we discern the concreteness of the good and evil presented to us by the historical status . The basic moral intuitions awaken in the humus of society and culture, they are not abstract formulations that one receives intact from previous generations, but the task of each time.