The Myth of Political Reason - The Moral and Emotional Foundations of Political Cognition and US Politics

Ryan Wilson

Publikation: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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The current ascendancy of right-wing populists across western democracies is a concerning trend,
and so far, the left has not managed to mount an effective counterstrategy to arrest its momentum.
Much of the rhetoric of these right-wing populists has focused on evoking fear and suspicion,
verging on hatred, of outsiders and fellow countrymen and women with opposing political
ideologies, to great effect. The importance of understanding why certain rhetoric is effective cannot
be understated, and the works of George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt, and Drew Westen that illuminate
the moral and emotional factors behind how individuals interpret and respond to inputs of a political
nature are reviewed and synthesised. Individuals' underlying moral mental structures and the
emotional responses that they can trigger must be understood in order to generate political
messaging that resonates strongly with its target audience and consequently increases the likelihood
of their actuation to vote. The recent phenomenon of individualisation, stemming from the current
era of reflexive modernity is analysed within the context of divergent conservative and liberal moral
matrices, and is found to be disproportionately ailing the liberal side of politics. In delineating the
key elements of liberal and conservative morality, the existence of liberal moral tenets that are
discordant with longstanding liberal communitarian ideals were revealed. In contrast, conservative
morality appears to exhibit an inherent coherence that may contribute to conservatism's resilience
in the face of reflexive modernity and disparate policy priorities of its constituents. The importance
of understanding the moral and emotional foundations of political cognition is emphasised not only
for its potential to bolster the efficacy of left-wing political parties, but also to provide an avenue
by which the increasing hostility across the political spectrum can be subdued.
HerausgeberWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2019


NameSRE - Discussion Papers

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