Study mood essay

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The prominent role of fear today merely indicates that it serves as a framework through which we interpret a variety of experiences. The prominence of fear in contemporary culture also suggests that fear works as a problem in its own right. In recent years, particularly as a result of risk theory, fear has become objectified. Alan Hunt has noted that risk discourse transposes anxieties into an objectivist problematic (41). As a result, fear is increasingly perceived as an autonomous problem. Consequently, fear becomes a discourse, which expands beyond a specific referent and is used instead as a more general orientation (42).

Some believe that todays magnitude and nature of fear is different to the past, since it seems that fear is everywhere (38). Studies on the fear of crime argue that there has been a growth of fear in everyday life. For Elin: The fear factor has certainly grown, as indicated by the growth in locked car and house doors and security systems, the popularity of gated or secure communities for all age and income groups, and the increasing surveillance of public spacenot to mention the. However, an increase in the quantity of fear is difficult to measure, since the very meaning of fear is itself continually changing. That is why, as Andrew Tudor argues, simply to document the considerable range of fears given currency in our cultures is not enough (40). We must remember, says Tudor, that late modern conceptions of fear are distinctive in their fundamental character when compared with other periods and societies. The starting point to gaining an insight into the socio-cultural nature of contemporary fear is to emphasise the quality and meaning of fear, rather than its quantity. Fear is often said to be the defining cultural mood in contemporary society. Yet the institutionalisation of fear through the issuing business of health warnings, through risk management, through media stories and so on, should not be interpreted as proof that the quantity of fears has increased. Maybe it has; maybe it has not. Nor can we conclude on the basis of existing evidence that people feel fear more intensely than did earlier generations.

study mood essay

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The real significance of this development, however, of this move best towards a more individuated form of fear, is the highly personalised, even customised way in which fear is experienced now. As Zygmunt bauman argues, postmodernity has privatised the fears of modernity. With fears privatizedthere is no hope left that human reason, and its earthly agents, will make the race a guided tour, certain to end up in a secure and agreeable shelter, bauman writes (36). John keane has drawn attention to another aspect of the privatisation of fear namely, todays growing tendency to transform private fears into public ones. The privatisation of fear encourages an inward orientation towards the self. According to one interesting study, when members of the public are interviewed about the personal risks they face they tend to represent crisis, fears and anxieties as self-produced and individual problems, the products of personal biography (37). Fear as a problem in its own right. A recurring question in public debates on contemporary risk consciousness is whether society is more fearful today than it was in the past.

study mood essay

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However, the influence of fear today cannot be explained as a direct outcome of the power of the media. The very real dynamic of individuation means that fear is experienced in a fragmented and atomised form. That is why fear is rarely experienced as a form of collective insecurity, as it often was in earlier times. This shift from collective fears to individuated fear is captured well by nan Elin, who argued in the 1999 book. Postmodern Urbanism that the fear we sense today is no longer the fear of dangerous classes; rather, fear has come home and become privatised (34). The sensibility of fear is internalised in an isolated fashion, for example as a fear of crime or as a rather banal ambient fear (as Hubbard describes it) towards life in general. Hubbard notes that this is a kind of fear that requires us to vigilantly monitor every banal minutia of our lives, since even mundane acts are now viewed as inherently risky and dangerous (35). Low-grade fears and risks seem to be flourishing and capturing peoples imaginations.

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study mood essay

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And these habits of thought and feeling influence the way that individuals make sense of their experiences, and also how they perceive of threats and how they respond to threats. As Norbert Elias stated, the strength and form of shame, fear of war and fear of God, guilt, fear of punishment or of loss of social prestige, mans fear of himself, of being overcome by his own affective impulses depend upon the structure of his. Threats are mediated through the cultural outlook. And today, the role of culture is arguably more significant than it was in previous times. According to Stefanie grupp, in her paper on the political implications of a discourse of fear, individual fears are cultivated through the media and are less and less the outcome of direct experience. Fear literary is decreasingly experienced first-hand and increasingly experienced on a discursive and abstract level, concludes Grupp. She also suggestively notes that there has been a general shift from a fearsome life towards a life with fearsome media (31).

This point is echoed by Altheide, who claims that popular culture has been the key element in promoting the discourse of fear (32). Even Osama bin Laden seems to have grasped this trend. In an interview in October 2001, when asked why is the western media establishment so anti-humane, bin Laden replied: Because it implants fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. The legal theorist Christopher guzelian argues that this indirect aspect of fear is the most distinctive feature of contemporary fear culture. He believes that most fears in Americas electronic age are the results of risk information (whether correct or false) that is communicated to society. He concludes that it is risk communication, not personal experience, that causes most fear these days (33).

In the individual, too, fear has not always been viewed as a negative emotion. As david Parkin argued in his 1986 essay toward an apprehension of fear, as late as the nineteenth century the sentiment of fear was linked to respect, reverence, veneration. Fearing the lord, for example, was culturally celebrated and valued. In contrast, the act of fearing God today sits far more uneasily with the prevailing cultural outlook. Matters are complicated further by the fact that the words and phrases used to describe fear are culturally and historically specific. Today, we talk about fear as something unspecific, diffuse, and intimately tied to the therapeutic view of the individual.


In her important study of the cultural history of fear, published in 2005, joanna bourke points to the importance of the recent conversion of fear into anxiety through the therapeutic revolution (29). Anxieties about being at risk or feeling stressed or traumatised or vulnerable show very clearly that todays individualised therapeutic vocabulary influences our sensibility of fear. Contemporary fear culture, in an important contribution to the debate about how culture impacts on the population, Ann Swidler argued that people vary greatly in how much culture they apply to their lives (30). But in the very act of using culture, people learn how to be, or become, particular kinds of persons. Swidler argues that this self-forming continually calls upon the symbolic resources of the wider culture. Through experience with symbols, people learn desires, moods, habits of thought and feeling that no one could invent on her own, she observes.

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As the sociologist david Altheide has argued, fear does not just happen; it is socially constructed and then manipulated by those who seek to benefit (26). While this description of needed socially constructed fear tends to inflate the role of self-interest the extent to which fear entrepreneurs exploit fear in order to gain some direct benefit its emphasis on the role of human agency in the making of fear is nonetheless. So, the meaning and experience of fear are continually shaped by cultural and historical factors. The historical fear of famine is very different, for example, to todays powerful fear of being fat (27). The meaning that societies once attached to fear of God or the fear of Hell is not quite the same as todays fear of pollution or of cancer. And fear does not always have negative qualities. The sixteenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes regarded fear as being essential for the realisation of the individual and of a civilised reviews society (28). For Hobbes, and others, fear could be seen as a fairly reasonable response to new events and big changes.

study mood essay

While the emotional experience of the individual is, of course, an important aspect of the problem of fear, we must also try to conceptualise fear as a social phenomenon. Cultural norms that shape the way in which we manage and display our emotions also influence the way that fear is experienced. For example, experience tells us that the intensity of fear is not directly proportional to the objective character of the specific threat. Adversity, acts of misfortune and threats to personal security do not directly produce fear. Rather, our responses to specific circumstances are mediated through cultural norms, which inform people of what is expected of them when they are confronted with a threat; live how they should respond, how they should feel. Arlie hochschild, in her pathbreaking study in 1979 of the sociology of emotions, described these informal expectations of how we should respond to things as feeling rules (23). These feeling rules influence behaviour; they instruct us on what we ought to fear, and how we ought to fear. According to Anthony giddens, people handle dangers and the fears associated with them in terms of emotional and behavioural formulae which have come to be part of their everyday behaviour and thought (24). But the transformation of anxious responses into fear also requires the intervention of social forces, of what I have labelled fear entrepreneurs (25).

individual never depend solely on his own nature. Rather they are always determined, finally by the history and the actual structure of his relations to other people (19). So the impact of fear is determined by the situation people find themselves in, but it is also, to some extent, the product of social construction (20). Fear is determined by the self, and the interaction of the self with others; it is also shaped by a cultural script that instructs people on how to respond to threats to their security. So getting to grips with fear in contemporary society will require an assessment of the influence of culture. Instead of treating fear as a self-evident emotion, a taken-for-granted concept, we should explore the meaning attached to fear and the rules and customs that govern the way in which fear is experienced and expressed. Sociologists need to ask questions such as what may be the meaning of emotional events? When they are examining fear today (21). One of the most perceptive studies of the history of emotions says we must distinguish between the collective emotional standards of a society and the subjective feelings of the individual (22).

Indeed, today writers and thinkers tend to use the term fear as a taken-for-granted concept that needs little explanation or elaboration. The aim of this essay is to examine the various elements of fear in the here and now. It will explore how fear works, and isolate the key elements of todays culture of fear. According to david Garland, in his 2001 book. The culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary society, when it comes to fear of crime our fears and resentments, but also our commonsense narratives and understandings, become settled cultural facts that are sustained and reproduced by cultural scripts. The idea of cultural scripts can help to reveal much about emotions such as fear. A cultural script communicates rules about feelings, and also ideas about what those feelings review mean.

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The terms fear and risk have been used pretty much interchangeably in many studies of risk in recent world years. Yet where the sociology of risk has become an important and ever-growing field of inquiry, the theorisation of fear remains underdeveloped and immature. Norbert Elias has made perhaps the most significant contribution to the sociological study of fear. In his 1982 book. The civilising Process Vol 2: State formation and civilization, elias argued that fear is one of the most important mechanisms through which the structures of society are transmitted to individual psychological functions. He argued that the civilized character is partly constructed by peoples internalisation of fears. This is a striking and important insight into the history of fear and society (18). Unfortunately, elias insights have not been developed in relation to the contemporary experience of fear.


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