Helene Aarseth: Fear of Falling – Fear of Fading: The Emotional Dynamics of Positional and Personalised Individualism

First Published October 2, 2017 in Sage Journals Sociology.


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This article explores the emotional dynamics involved in the shaping of middle-class subjectivities, aiming to move beyond the ‘fear of falling’ thesis and the attendant emphasis on the quest for positional advantage. I argue that this thesis offers a one-dimensional notion of what it is that drives middle-class perceptions, values and motivations, unsuitable for explaining current tensions between symbolic and economic fractions. Drawing on a comparative narrative interview study of managerial and professional parents in Norway, I describe the emotionally charged investments – ‘fear of falling’ and ‘fear of fading’ – as well as the excitements that drive different modes of socialisation in these groups. Further developing the phenomenological and psychosocial trajectories in Bourdieu’s practice theory yields a productive tool for exploring these modes of socialisation, contributing to an enhanced conception of emotional dynamics of different middle- class subjectivities.

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Published Oct. 12, 2017 4:03 PM - Last modified Dec. 17, 2020 10:02 AM