Thomas Szanto / Emotional Capitalism, Invasion and Self-Alienation

Thomas Szanto, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CFS, on a Complex Affective Trias

Thanks to my generous Marie Curie project funding (SHARE), recently, I could spend three wonderful months in Europe’s probably most vibrant capital, Berlin—vibrant not only in terms of its notorious night-life, but just as much in terms of its research community.

From May to July I was a Visiting Researcher at the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center (CRS), “Affective Societies: Dynamics of Social Coexistence in Mobile Worlds” The CRS is an interdisciplinary research platform, spanning 11 disciplines and involving 70 researchers, based at the Freie Universität Berlin and lead, as Co-PIs, by the philosopher Jan Slaby (, who kindly invited and hosted me for the research stay, and the sociologist Christian von Scheve (

I immensely profited from discussions with Jan and Christian and other colleagues at FU Berlin. The forthcoming paper on “Emotional Self-Alienation”, which I was mainly working on during my stay, was much inspired by their exciting work, in particular, by Christian’s work on “feeling norms” (esp. von Scheve 2012, 2013), and Jan’s work on the exploitative and manipulative flip-side of situated and extended cognition approaches (esp. Slaby 2017).

With regard to the sociological research, I was interested in how what sociologists of emotion since Hochschild’s seminal work (1983) have called of “emotional labor” and “emotion norms” and the logics of “emotional capitalism” (Illouz 2007) increasingly make our affective life susceptible to what I explore in terms of the notion of emotional self-alienation.

Regarding the extended and situated approaches, some philosophers of emotion, including myself, have recently investigated the extent to which external, technological or socio-cultural ‘scaffolds’ facilitate, enhance or even co-constitute our affective make-up. But these discussions on so-called extended emotions (Krueger 2014; Slaby 2014; Krueger & Szanto 2017; León et al. forthcoming) often seem, if not in the spirit of emotional capitalism, still too much in line with it. It is high time to supplement their focus and investigate not just emotional extension but also what might be called ‘emotional invasion’—a negative modulation of the affective life of individuals by heteronomous, intrusive factors and actors, that those individuals cannot identify with or appropriate (cf. Slaby 2017). The paper is intended as a modest contribution to precisely this task.

The article is forthcoming in the next issue of the journal Midwest Studies in Philosophy; you can read or download it here:

If you are interested in my related work on group agency, group minds, extended and collective emotions, you can access my papers here:



Hochschild, Arlie R. (1983). The Managed Heart. Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkley: University of California Press.

Illouz, Eva (2007). Cold Intimacies. The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity.

Krueger, Joel (2014). Varieties of Extended Emotions. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 13(4): 533–55.

Krueger, Joel, and Thomas Szanto (2016). Extended Emotions. Philosophy Compass 11(12): 863–78.

León, Felipe, Szanto, Thomas, & Zahavi, Dan. (Forthcoming). Emotional Sharing and the Extended Mind. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-017-1351-x.

von Scheve, Christian (2012). Emotion work and emotion regulation: Two sides of the same coin? Frontiers in Psychology 3(496). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00496

von Scheve, Christian (2013). Emotion and Social Structures. The Affective Foundations of Social Order. New York: Routledge.

Slaby, Jan (2014). Emotions and the Extended mind. Collective Emotions. Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology, ed. Christian von Scheve, and Mikko Salmela, 32–46. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Slaby, Jan (2017). Mind Invasion: Situated Affectivity and the Corporate Life Hack. Frontiers of Psychology 7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00266.

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