Ireland's Moral Revolution: Critical Events and Collective Emotions

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


What role have collective emotions played in Ireland’s transformation from a conservative, deeply gendered society in the 1970s to one which is now often regarded as a beacon of individual liberty? What does this mean for the possibility of social solidarity? This talk addresses the transformation in Ireland’s ‘habits of the heart’ (Bellah et al., 1996), by examining shifting collective emotions. The significance of collective expressions of shame and solidarity are traced, as they underpinned the form and direction of major moral conflicts, from abortion access and equal marriage to religion in schools. The focus is on critical moments in Ireland’s moral politics across five decades, as struggles for a broad-based, democratically oriented solidarity played out against more conservative, patriarchal, and ethno-nationally exclusive alternatives. Relying on critical theory, the paper develops an original treatment of social change through
the collective emotions provoked by critical public events. This approach illuminates the tensions and complexities embedded in late capitalist forms of individualism, as they shape attitudes to gender, sexuality, reproduction, and family life, as well as generalized attitudes of compassion, belonging and obligations of mutual support. Attention focuses on the significance of emotions for expectations of collective life and solidarity across differences and divisions.
Period02 Sep 2021
Event titleEuropean Sociological Association: 15th Biannual conference
Event typeConference
LocationBarcelona, Spain
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • moral
  • revolution
  • Ireland
  • Emotions