Mindfulness and Emotional Capital

Ulrike Nennstiel
(Hokusei Gakuen University, Sapporo)

While for a certain period, digital and technical developments seemed to be opposed to and to oppress affects and emotions, in our postdigital age this tendency can hardly be asserted (any more?). Postdigital technical innovations like emotionally reacting robots in restaurants and care work have earned immense popularity (at least in some countries), innovations for experiences of high affectivity in the pleasure industry ceaselessly try to surpass and outperform all earlier inventions, and anxiety is provoked and amplified in order to be effectively used to establish the necessity of investing in “risk management”. Against this background of capitalizing affects and emotions, I want to concentrate on the comparatively new movement drawing attention to “mindfulness”, focussing on one’s inner mental state and emotional sensitivities. On the surface, this movement looks as if opposed to the incessant demand for uproarious experiences, be it in sports, tourism or entertaining TV programs. Analysing concrete features of this reverse towards tranquillity, however, it turns out to be serving as a new market attracting people fed up with the speedy lifestyle. At the same time, this tendency does not only represent an emerging market for affects and intense emotional experiences. Comprehensive awareness and control of one’s affects and emotions has become crucial in optimizing oneself, one’s status and one’s chances in the postdigital age. In this sense, mindfulness can be considered a new form of capital, with its (alleged) ability to “understand emotionally”, surpassing the boundaries and limits of cultural capital.

Ulrike Nennstiel is Professor at the Department of Social Welfare, Hokusei Gakuen University, Sapporo. She is the author of, among others, Widerstandslos in Japan? Sozialwissenschaftliche Theorien und ihr Beitrag zur Erklärung des Scheiterns von Bürgerbewegungen (Iudicium Verlag 1998).