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Working paper

From Sentimentalism to the "Great Reforms": Alexander Herzen and Emotional Regimes of the Russian Empire

Humanities. HUM. Basic Research Programme, 2019. No. WP BRP 181/HUM/2019.
The article examines views of A.I. Herzen on emotions and their role in politics. Herzen’s position on the issue of emotions traced back to the early socialist and romantic influences and interpreted in terms of “sentimentalist emotional regime” (W. Reddy). Two discussions that involved Herzen are scrutinized. The first one was a debate of the 1840s around rationality and morals in family life where Herzen advocated middle position between unrestricted capricious emotionality and moralistic rationalism represented by Hegelian T. Rötscher. It is argued that this debate noticeably influenced Herzen’s later conceptions of politics and the public sphere that came to prominence during the reforms of Alexander II. The article shows that Herzen repeated some of his previous arguments against excessive rationalism and emotional restrictions attacking Russian Hegelian B.N. Chicherin. Herzen backed sincerity in the expression of one’s emotions both in private life and in politics, challenging prevalent notions of rationality. Chicherin, on the contrary, was a strong proponent of the neutral and rationalized political sphere since he thought emotions would lead to disturbances and revolutions Concluding remarks concern ambiguous heritage of Herzen’s views on emotions that seem to be closer to his opponents than may be immediately apparent.