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Nils Gustafsson (2020)

Nils Gustafsson

elite networks, political communication & social media

Nils Gustafsson (2020)

The prevalence and durability of emotional enthusiasm: connective action and charismatic authority in the 2015 European refugee crisis


  • Nils Gustafsson
  • Noomi Weinryb

Summary, in English

Departing from previous research on digital action networks, this paper approaches the spread and emotional contagion of digital activism slightly differently, looking for it not necessarily inside the social movement itself, but rather outside it. By questioning the implicit assumption that the spread and emotional contagion of digital activism is contained only in the context of social movements, we explore emotional enthusiasm also in the social media engagement of other types of contemporaneous civil society organizations, viewing it as a manifestation of Weber’s concept of charismatic authority. Empirically, we study voluntary engagement and mobilization on Facebook in Sweden during the refugee crisis of the fall of 2015. In a mixed-method content analysis of 59 Facebook groups and pages, we trace the use of emotional markers in posts during the period September-November 2015. Our findings indicate that the prevalence of emotional enthusiasm outside of social movement, and the lack of durability of it both in organizations and in networks, points to the lack of stability that charismatic authority entails. As charismatic authority becomes institutionalized as a legitimate and predominant manner of organizing through social media, this may have large scale implications for societal organizing at large. The paper indicates that emotional enthusiasm in the form of charismatic authority not only provides democratic opportunities for protest and contention, but, given its emotional contagion, may also but democratic procedures and respect for bureaucratic structures at risk.


  • Institutionen för strategisk kommunikation








  • Media and Communications
  • Political Science

Conference name

ECPR General conference, 2017

Conference date

2017-09-06 - 2017-09-09

Conference place

Oslo, Norway