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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Dramatic and Post-Dramatic: Political Communication Strategies of Emotion Management

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Political Cultures
Balázs Kiss
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Balázs Kiss
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

To a great extent, political communication is the ways politicians appeal to the citizens. The appeal may take diverse forms. Politicians often apply a specific emotional strategy: in political communication and behaviour, they use the emotional patterns elaborated and spread by popular culture, that is, by the cultural products consumed by the “people” most. Popular culture is permeated with emotions, e.g., blockbusters use specific emotional dynamics to grab the audience and keep it un-der continuous effect. The consumption of popular culture obviously leads to the emergence and strengthening of popular sensibilities that should be taken into account by politicians striving to win the “people”.
Emotions may be raised in several ways. So far two have become used in popular culture: dramatic and postdramatic. Dramatic was described and prescribed for theatre by Aristotle first. The spectacle should be structured in a way that emotions are building all along and at the peak they are “purged”; electoral campaigns may be a political parallel. The concept of postdramatic theatre was introduced by Hans-Thies Lehmann in the nineties. That is another way of emotion management: it works not through one coherent well-structured story/narrative but exerts a series of emotional impulses upon the audience.
The thesis of the paper I would like to present at the Wroclaw conference is that several politicians have learnt to use not only the dramatic but the postdramatic emotion management as well in their communication, and the more smoothly they use both, the more successful they have been so far. I will illustrate the thesis by some examples from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s political behaviour, and also from that of US President Donald Trump.
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