This special issue contributes to the development of an urgently needed general sociology of fear. Regardless of the respective empirical phenomena, historical idiosyncrasies of theoretical traditions or methodological paradigms, fear can become a major analytical key to understanding and analysing society in various facets. Therefore, it seems crucial to us to conceptualise fear as a constituent of human and social existence in all epochs, to analyse its dysfunctional and functional aspects, to reflect the researcher’s positionality and fears, and to put the different strands of research into dialogue. As we have argued, however, we must also be cautious not to put an overly strong emphasis on fear and neglect other relevant concepts, such as those offered to us by the sociology of emotions. In fact, as part of the programme of a general sociology of fear, future efforts must be invested in relating fear to different emotions, both in terms of them affecting (activating or hindering, for example) each other and of being transformed into each other. In these cases, we will find subjacent explanatory factors that sometimes can render fear as a second-tier aspect of the phenomenon at hand (for example, whenever fears are strongly determined by societal conditions), and we can see functional interrelations between fear and different emotions (for example, relations of mutual reinforcement or inhibition or transformation into each other). Not least, the sociology of fear would be concerned with affects: in other words, with revealing the far-reaching and often subtle societal implications and consequences of fears and their interrelations with other emotions.
It is against this background that we have gathered contributions that employ various perspectives on the broad spectrum of fear. The authors of this issue examine various types and aspects of fear in its societal dimensions, apply and develop theoretical conceptions and offer methodological strategies for accessing the realm of fear.