Towards a sociology of resentment: A debate on class and whiteness.
Sociological Research Online, 13(5) article 9.
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This essay argues that there are urgent reasons why anti-racists should pay attention to the history of resentment as ‘a political idea’. It offers different examples of the way the concept of white working class resentment has been routinely used in public discourse on race, immigration and multiculturalism in the UK. The BBC White Season is examined in detail as a framing device. International trends in political campaigning indicate increasing use of polling data to identify emotive issues, such as economic immigration and asylum seekers, which have been shown to be particularly divisive in marginal areas. In the context of policy-oriented, academic research on social cohesion, citizenship and belonging, social class and white identity emerge as key indicators of ‘resentment’. The Nietzschian concept of ressentiment, particularly as developed by German sociologist Max Scheler, is considered in order to complicate the broader psycho-social dynamics of resentment today. Finally, the essay discusses Ghassan Hage’s work on affective attachments as a model of thinking through ‘resentment’ as a particular response to perceptions of waning racial privilege in Anglophone societies. The concept of ‘white decline’ and the subsequent embracing of victim identity precipitates political formations that endanger fragile multicultures.
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