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How are emotions about COVID-19 impacting society? The role of the political elite and grassroots activism

Tommaso Gravante (CEIICH, UNAM, CDMX, Mexico)
Alice Poma (IIS-UNAM, UNAM, CDMX, Mexico)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 19 February 2021



The purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate the role of emotions in the polarization that emerged during the first months of the pandemic. So, the authors will analyze the social response of two opposing social actors: political elites that have minimized the risks of the pandemic and grassroots groups that have promoted mutual support for vulnerable people suffering from the various effects of the pandemic.


For the analysis, the authors will primarily refer to Hochschild's proposal and the recent literature on emotions and protest. The method is to analyze official statements by politicians from the UK, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and Italy and the social responses that have emerged from different mutual support groups and solidarity networks in those countries, as well as in Chile and Argentina.


The authors will show how the conflicting responses can exacerbate social polarization in our societies. This polarization goes beyond the political spectrum, and in some cases even social classes, and reaches into the realms of values, emotions and practices. The authors will also show how the response from grassroots activism makes it possible to overcome guilt, shame and other emotions of trauma, among other things.


An analysis of the emotional dimension of two opposing responses to the pandemic will show how these responses have a deep impact on society, ranging from demands for values and practices that legitimize a status quo, to discussing, breaking away from or overcoming social behavior based on individualism and social determinism.



Gravante, T. and Poma, A. (2021), "How are emotions about COVID-19 impacting society? The role of the political elite and grassroots activism", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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