Emotional intelligence in the age of liquid modernity: a cultural construct for the 21st century

Harriss, Ian (2005) Emotional intelligence in the age of liquid modernity: a cultural construct for the 21st century. In Social Change in the 21st Century, 28 October 2005, QUT Carseldine, Brisbane.

PDF (59kB)


In the 1990s Emotional Intelligence (EI) emerged as a major phenomenon. Today, its influence can be seen in Psychology, in Organisational Theory, and in Human Resource Management. To date, most theoretical and empirical work on the concept has taken place within the disciplines of Psychology and Management. Remarkably, the disciplines of Cultural Studies and History have remained relatively silent on the issue of EI. This paper seeks to redress that imbalance. Using Bauman's work on liquid modernity as a starting point, I seek to show how EI is a cultural construct of the knowledge-based economies that characterise the present age of globalisation. In this sense, EI can be seen as a postmodern advance beyond that great construct of modernity: IQ. Certainly, EI is perfectly suitable for a more democratised workplace, where hierarchies of power and managerial control have given way to lateral networks and flattened organisational structures. Considered as a cultural construct, the concept also has much to tell us about the contemporary human subject as well as the contemporary economy. I shall argue, however, that the concept remains trapped between modernity and postmodernity. This is because it retains many of the essentialist assumptions of IQ, despite superficial appearances to the contrary. Lastly, I shall argue that Cultural Studies and History have much to offer to those who seek an understanding of the potential and the limitations of EI. It should be noted, however, that although the terms modernity and postmodernity might more commonly be used, and in fact could be used, I shall use the terms 'solid modernity' and 'liquid modernity'. For reasons that I hope shall become clear, these terms seem more evocative in the context of the argument that I make.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

1,253 since deposited on 06 Feb 2006
15 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 3458
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: emotional intelligence, solid modernity, liquid modernity
ISBN: 1741071089
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 Ian Harriss
Deposited On: 06 Feb 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:30

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page