Dr. Christopher Neff

Governing Emotion: Analyzing how emotion and policy thresholds impact responses to mass shootings in Australia and the United States

(Dr. Christopher Neff)




This article proposes a conceptual framework to improve our understanding of the role of emotionality and temporality on the policy process. Building on the literature on affect, salience, causal stories, and policy entrepreneurship, I identify three aspects that clarify how emotionality impacts the types of issues that receive attention, the speed of policy responses, the selection of certain solutions. These dimensions include aggregations of high-affect events, the use of policy thresholds to manage problems, people and time and affective relief for immediate conditions. I apply these elements in a comparative review of two cases of highly emotional events: the Australian response to the Port Arthur mass shooting in 1996, and the United States response to the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting in 2013. From this comparison, I propose a new concept of ‘policy as therapy’ to understand the function of policy in relieving political and social distress by distributing how many people care about an issue, how much they care, and for how long. 

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Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis – Workshop 2014