Ressentiment, Democracy, Mediation: A Critical Reinterpretation and Revaluation


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Title Ressentiment, Democracy, Mediation: A Critical Reinterpretation and Revaluation
Period 06 / 2012 - 05 / 2015
Status Current
Research number OND1346160
Data Supplier NWO


Populism, claim culture and radical fundamentalism, together with the culture of complaint in affluent societies, challenge us to reconsider the issue of ressentiment. This research project proposes a fundamental affect theory of political culture in which the conceptual entanglement of ressentiment with democracy is critically revisited. This will be done in relation to the contemporary crisis of citizenship, signaled by the paradox that despite the success of modern emancipatory movements, citizens continue to experience themselves as handicapped subjects. This paradox is reflected by the simultaneous moralization of citizenship from a common right into a personal virtue and eventually into a means for social exclusion versus the growing feeling of impotence to live up to our moral standards. My hypothesis is that this paradox is rooted in the affective infrastructure of contemporary democracies and can be explained in terms of ressentiment. My main objective is 1. to supplement the existing but ideologically overdetermined discourse on the relation between ressentiment and democracy with a coherent political ontology of affects, inspired by Spinoza, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Sloterdijk. On this basis, I will 2. develop criteria for determining the specificity of democratic culture in relation to ressentiment and thus for the cultural-philosophical interpretation and evaluation of recent developments ranging from anti-elitarism to radicalizing fundamentalism; 3. reinterpret Arendt?s relational ontology of public action in order to explore ethical conditions under which ressentiment can be transformed into positively interested interaction. A persisting problem in this context is the double bind between ?Inter-esse? and ressentiment in mediations of publicness such as popular representation or mass media. Recent theoretical renewals of citizenship do not sufficiently take into account this affective vulnerability of democratic culture and must therefore be supplemented with a medial ethos of public life based on ?aristocratic? virtues and on a ?hygiene? of anger.

Abstract (NL)

Met de opkomst van het populisme, de klaag- en claimcultuur en het radicaliserend fundamentalisme lijkt het probleem van het ressentiment terug van weggeweest. Mijn onderzoeksproject stelt een nieuwe affecttheorie van de politieke cultuur voor, waarin de relatie tussen ressentiment en democratie fundamenteel wordt heroverwogen en consequenties worden getrokken voor onze manier van denken over burgerschap.

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Project leader Dr. S. van Tuinen

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