FRAMING RULES AND FEELING RULES: ISSUES IN IDEOLOGY
Rules for managing feeling are implicit in any ideological stance: they are the “bottom side” of ideology. Ideology has often been construed as a flatly cognitive framework, lacking implications for how we feel. Yet, drawing on Emile Durkheiin, Clifford Geertz, and Erving Goffman, we can think of ideology as an interpretive framework that can be described in terms of framing rules and feeling rules.2* By “framing rules” I refer to the rules according to which we ascribe definitions or meanings to situations. For example, a man who just got fired can see it as a result of personal failure or heartless capitalism. According to another, one can’t. Framing and feeling rules mutually imply each other. They stand back to back.
It follows that when an individual changes an ideological stance, he or she drops old rules and assumes new ones for reacting to situations, cognitively and emotively. A sense of rights and duties applied to feelings in situations is also changed. One uses emotional sanctions differendy and accepts different sanctioning from others. For example, feeling rules in American society have differed for men and women because of the assumption that their natures differ basically. The feminist movement brings with it a new set of rules for framing the work and family life of men and women: the same balance of priorities in work and family now ideally applies to men as to women. This carries with it implications for feeling. A woman can now as legitimately as a man become angry (as opposed to disappointed) over abuses at work, since her heart is supposed to be in that work and she has the right to hope for advancement as much as a man would. Or a man has the right to feel angry at the loss of custody if he has shown himself the fitter parent. Old-fashioned feelings are now as subject to new chidings and cajolings as are old-fashioned perspectives on the same array of situations.
One can defy an ideological stance not simply by maintaining an alternative frame on a situation but by maintaining an alternative set of feeling rights and obligations. One can defy an ideological stance by inappropriate affect and by refusing to perform the emotion management necessary to feel what, according to the official frame, it would seem fitting to feel. Deep
acting is a form of obeisance to a given ideological stance and lax emotion management a clue to a lapsed ideology.
As some ideologies gain acceptance and others dwindle, contending sets of feeling rules rise and fall. Sets of feeling rules contend for a place in people’s minds as a governing standard with which to compare the actual lived experience of, say, the first kiss, the abortion, the wedding, the birth, the first job, the first layoff, the divorce. What we call the changing climate of opinion partly involves a changed framing of the same sorts of events. For example, each of two mothers may feel guilty about leaving her small child at daycare while working all day. One mother, a feminist, may feel that she should not feel as guilty as she does. The second, a traditionalist, may feel that she should feel more guilty than she does.
Part of what we refer to as the psychological effects of “rapid social change,” or unrest, is a change in the relation of feeling rule to feeling and a lack of clarity about what the rule actually is, owing to conflicts and contradictions between contending rules and between rules and feelings. Feelings are taken out of their conventional frames but not set into new ones. We may, like the marginal man, say, “I don’t know how I should feel.”
It remains to note that ideologies can function, as Randall Collins rightly notes, as weapons in the conflict between contending elites and social strata.-‘ Collins suggests that elites try to gain access to the emotive life of adherents by gaining legitimate access to ritual, which for him is a form of emotive technology. Developing his view, we can add that elites, and indeed social groups in general, struggle to assert the legitimacy of their framing rules and their feeling rules. Not simply the evocation of emotion but the rules governing it become the objects of political struggle.