Political enthusiasm

Partisan feeling and democracy's enchantments

By Andrew Poe

Political enthusiasm


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5691-4
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: March 2022
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Political structures: democracy, Society & social sciences / Liberalism & centre democratic ideologies, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Politics, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Democracy, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties, Society & social sciences / Political ideologies


Enthusiasm has long been perceived as a fundamental danger to democratic politics, with many regarding it as a source of instability and irrationalism. Such views can make enthusiasm appear as a direct threat to the reason and order on which democracy is thought to rely. But such a desire for a sober and moderate democratic politics is perilously misleading and ignores the emotional basis on which democracy thrives.

Enthusiasm in democracy works to help political actors identify and foster radical changes. We feel enthusiasm at precisely those moments of new beginnings, when politics takes on new shapes and structures. Being clear about how we experience enthusiasm, and how we recognize it, is thus crucial for democracy, which depends on the sharing of power and the alteration of rule.

This book traces the shifting understanding of enthusiasm in modern Western political thought. Poe explores how political actors use enthusiasm to motivate allegiances, how we have come to think on the dangers of enthusiasm in democratic politics, and how else we might think about enthusiasm today. From its inception, democracy has relied on a constant affective energy of renewal. By tracing the way this crucial emotional energy is made manifest in political actions - from ancient times to the present - this book sheds light on the way enthusiasm has been understood by political scientists, philosophers, and political activists, as well as its implications for future democratic politics.


Introduction: Enthusiasm's strange confusion
1 Igniting politics: From enthusiasm to fanaticism
2 On the borders of enthusiasm: Beginning a very dangerous politics
3 Our unknown zeal: Or what goes wrong when we rely on political relief
4 Strike! Enthusiasm in several political acts
5 Stirring emotion: Hatreds in democracy
Conclusion: Misrecognizing current enthusiasms
Appendix: C. M. Wieland's "Schwärmerei und Enthusiasmus" (1775)



Andrew Poe is a research fellow and teaches political theory at the University of Copenhagen

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