Grievance Politics: An Empirical Analysis of Anger Through the Emotional Mechanism of Ressentiment

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

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Grievance Politics: An Empirical Analysis of Anger Through the Emotional Mechanism of Ressentiment


  • Tereza Capelos Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, UK
  • Mikko Salmela Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark / Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Gabija Krisciunaite Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, UK


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Abstract:  

In this article, we undertake an empirical examination of the psychology of what is often called “the angry citizen,” highlighting ressentiment as an important emotional mechanism of grievance politics. Contrary to the short‐lived, action‐prone emotion of anger proper, ressentiment transmutes the inputs of grievance politics like deprivation of opportunity, injustice, shame, humiliation, envy, and inefficacious anger, into the anti‐social outputs of morally righteous indignation, destructive anger, hatred, and rage. Our empirical probe uses qualitative and quantitative analysis of 164 excerpts from interviews with US “angry citizens” from the following works: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (2016) by Arlie Russell Hochschild, Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era (2017) by Michael Kimmel, and Stiffed: The Roots of Modern Male Rage (2019) by Susan Faludi. In these seemingly “angry” excerpts, we find markers matching the psychological footprint of ressentiment instead of anger proper: victimhood, envy, powerlessness; the defenses of splitting, projection, and denial; and preference for inaction, anti‐preferences, and low efficacy. We conclude on the significance of the distinction between anger proper and ressentiment for understanding the psychology of grievance politics.


Keywords:  anger; angry citizen; emotional mechanism; grievance; philosophy; political psychology; ressentiment; resentment; United States

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v10i4.5789


© Tereza Capelos, Mikko Salmela, Gabija Krisciunaite. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.