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Resentment and Redemption: On the Mobilization of Dominant Group VictimhoodOn the Mobilization of Dominant Group Victimhood



This chapter examines claims of collective victimhood among high-power groups. Specifically, the authors posit that dominant group members claim victimhood when they think their group’s power and dominance are under threat and when they feel entitled to this dominant position, which together give rise to resentment. Additionally, the authors argue that collective victim beliefs among dominant groups do not develop individually but, instead, are mobilized by leaders, who promise solutions to recovering the group’s status and power and thereby create narratives of resentment and redemption. Two case studies are presented that exemplify the four central elements of the mobilization of collective victimhood among dominant groups. These are Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the United States in 2016, and the propaganda put out by ISIS to recruit new members.
Resentment andRedemption
On the Mobilization of Dominant Group Victimhood
Stephen Reicher and Yasemin Ulusahin
Both in his own time, and still today, Emile Zola was referred to as the “poet
of the crowd.” As Ravenhill (2009) enthuses:“he writes about crowds— the
surging mass of human beings, the many becoming one— better than an-
yone.” Here is just one of Zola’s many descriptions from his “masterpiece
Germinal, a story of striking miners in Northern France. Zola is referring
to the strikers as they march toward the village of Montsou:“An abcess of
rancour was bursting, a septic boil of long slow growth. Years and years of
hunger were now torturing them with a lust for massacre and destruction
(Zola, 1885/ 1979, p.320).
As they arrive in the village, the marchers spot the local baker, Maigrat; a
disreputable character who would give the miners’ daughters bread in return
for sexual favors. ey chase him into his shop and, as he tries to ee over a
roof, he falls to his death. at’s not the end of it. Agroup of women swarm
around the lifeless body. One, Ma Brule, grasps his penis:
She managed in the end to pull away the lump of hairy, bleeding esh which
she waved alo with a snarl of triumph. “I’ve got it. I’ve got it!” e horrible
trophy was greeted with shrill imprecations. “You bugger, you won’t ll up
our girls any more!” (Zola, 1885/ 1979, pp.351– 352).
It is hard to think of a more graphic and brutal image, one that exemplies
Schiller’s earlier warning:“Woe to the cities in whose midst lies tinder! e
people, breaking their chains, take to self- help in terrible ways” (cited in Tilly,
Tilly & Tilly, 1975, p.1). at is, the most extreme violence is that of the pow-
erless once they are able to turn the tables on the powerful and take revenge
for their long- standing victimhood (Robins & Jones, 2009). It is the bloodlust
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Stephen Reicher and Yasemin Ulusahin, Resentment and Redemption In: The Social Psychology of Collective
Victimhood. Edited by: Johanna Ray Vollhardt, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press.
DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190875190.001.0013
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of the subordinate classes that we should most fear and, among them, it is the
fury of the most oppressed groups (women) that is most terrible.
While such representations have been commonplace, especially since the
rise of industrial society and the formation of the urban masses (Barrows,
1981; Giner, 1976), they came to a head in the Paris Commune of 1871 when,
for the rst time in history, the masses not only threatened the existing order
but temporarily took power (Lissagaray, 1876/ 2012). Adeafening chorus of
elite voices testied to the bestial savagery of the Communards. Augustine
Blanchecotte attacked them as “wild beasts, savage, raging . . . these are
monsters who should be classied by zoologists. ese are not men” (cited in
Merriman, 2016, p.235). eole Gaultier also likened the Communards to
dangerous zoo animals that have escaped:“their cages now open, the hyenas
of 1793 and the gorillas of the Commune rush out” (p.236).
If the Communards in general were depicted negatively, condemnation
rose to a crescendo when it came to the women of the Commune. ey
were, for Gaultier “the bearded and moustached sorcerers of Shakespeare,
a hideous variety of hermaphrodite, formed from the ugliness drawn from
both sexes” (cited in Merriman, 2016, p. 237). Indeed, Alexandre Dumas
ls refused to call them women at all. He dubbed them “females” “out of re-
spect for the women whom they resembled— when they were dead” (cited
in Gullickson, 1996, p.4). But the worst of the worst were the so- called
Petroleuses. ese women were, for many, the symbol of the Commune.
ey allegedly (and as their name suggests), carried cans of petrol to set res
around Paris. ey were described, in word and image, as monstrous. ey
were hags and banshees. ey were hideous and inhuman. ey “turned the
cumming and deviousness that was thought to be charming in the most fem-
inine wonen to evil purpose; she crept though the night to burn and destroy”
(Gullickson, 1996, p.189).
For sure, some Communards did act violently. For instance, the Commune
took hostages— policemen, alleged spies, army ocers, priests, and others.
Some 66 or 68 were shot. But this violence pales in signicance compared
with the violence meted out to them. During the semaine sanglante (bloody
week) when the army retook Paris, between 17,000 and 35,000 Communards
were killed. Mass executions took place around the city. Bodies were le eve-
rywhere in piles, covered in lime and burned, tossed into the river Seine.
Paris, according to Maxine Vuillaune, had become an “immense slaughter-
house” (Merriman, 2016, p.251).
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work to the References.
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We provide these examples in order to underline a very simple point, but
equally the most important point of this chapter. While studies of collective
victimhood may, indeed, tend to focus on the reactions (and particularly on
the violence) of the powerless, it is the reaction of the powerful (particularly
their violence) when they either fear that they might lose out or else perceive
that they have lost out that should concern us more. It is when dominant
groups position themselves as potential or actual victims that the most toxic
consequences follow. at is the starting point for our argument.
e argument proceeds in two sections. In the rst, we build up an anal-
ysis of dominant group victimhood based on four elements. First, we show
that it arises in situations in which members of these groups see their dom-
inance to be under actual or potential threat:ey might still be privileged,
but they see the prospect of such privilege being lost. Second, we argue that
such beliefs and fears do not arise spontaneously but, rather, are propagated
by leaders:ey are a matter of mobilization, not just perception (cf. Reicher,
2007, 2012). ird, we focus on resentment as a key element in the represen-
tation of, and the response to, dominant group victimhood, and the ways in
which it is integrally bound up with issues of entitlement. Fourth, another
key element in such mobilizations is the promise that, under the auspices of
the leader, people can come together, eliminate the threat, and recover what
is lost (or in danger of being lost). at is, dominant group “victimhood”
mobilizations are a matter of resentment and redemption.
In the second section of the argument, we go on to illustrate this analysis
by considering two contemporary cases. e rst is Donald Trumps suc-
cessful 2016 campaign for the U.S. Presidency. e second is the propaganda
of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in its English language publication
Dabiq, aimed at recruiting support for its “caliphate” and its campaign of vi-
olence against the West.
An Analysis ofDominant GroupVictimhood
In recent years, the worldwide rise of authoritarian right- wing xenophobic
and anti- immigrant movements has led to an outpouring of popular and aca-
demic attempts at explanation. At rst it was assumed that these phenomena
represented a cry of rage against the system by the dispossessed, particularly
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the White male working class that is increasingly redundant (both literally
and guratively) in contemporary society (Carnes & Lupu, 2017). But more
recent and detailed analyses suggest a more nuanced picture. at is, those at
the bottom of the economic pile were less likely to vote for Brexit or for Trump
(Eatwell & Goodwin, 2018; Jetten, 2019)— and also for authoritarian right-
wing movements in the past, such as the Nazis (Childers, 1976; King, Rosen,
Tanner, & Wagner, 2008). What is more, if support for such movements were
simply a matter of economic deprivation, this would not explain why they
thrive in times of economic prosperity as well as of downturn— something
Mols and Jetten (2017) call the “wealth paradox.” In fact, overall, objective
individual economic position has surprisingly little relationship to support
for anti- immigrant parties.
is is not to say that there is no relationship between economics and
favoring parties that advocate harsh treatment of outsiders. It is just that the
relationship is a function of subjective, rather than objective, position, and
of the position of ones group rather than one’s own personal position. What
the evidence does show, then, is that belonging to a group whose economic
position is seen to be slipping or under threat is key to understanding the rise
of right- wing populism and of associated phenomena such as hate crime and
opposition to immigration. is is the core of Eatwell and Goodwin’s (2018)
argument, and they cite copious evidence in support of it (see Chapter5
in particular). ey focus particularly on those they call the “le behind,
sections of society that lack the qualications and the skills to thrive in an in-
formation age and whose hard- won status is in danger of disappearing. ey
evince a powerful sense of loss and a nostalgia for the bygone past in which
they were valued. Both perceptions are exacerbated by the view that other
groups— immigrants and minorities in particular— have been unfairly fa-
vored and have taken what was rightly their own.
Translating these arguments into social psychological terms, the rise of
xenophobic politics and attitudes is associated with dominant groups whose
status is seen to be under threat. is is what Jetten (2019) proposes. She
notes that Tajfel’s social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), which seeks
to delineate the conditions under which people act in terms of social group
membership and in which groups of dierent status come into conict, has
traditionally focused specically on the members of the subordinate group.
She argues that it is equally important to address the dominant group per-
spective and that intergroup hostility derives from contexts in which bound-
aries between groups are impermeable (such that people are locked into their
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respective memberships) and dominant groups see their position as inse-
cure. Under such conditions, group members— irrespective of their personal
circumstances— will act to reassert dominance and put subordinate group
members back “in their place.
In support of this proposition, Jetten provides not only survey evidence
(Jetten, Mols & Postmes, 2015)— which, being correlational, is open to the
criticism that it cannot establish causality— but also experimental sup-
port. us, hostility to incomers was increased for individuals allocated to
an auent group under conditions for which economic conditions were
represented as unstable (Jetten, Mols, Healy & Spears, 2017).
It follows from this argument that the extent of xenophobic sentiment and
support for xenophobic parties depends upon how far the sense of economic
insecurity and of decline is shared across the economic spectrum. at is, to
quote Eatwell and Goodwin (2018, p.214):“it is when the wider economic
environment triggers a broader feeling of relative deprivation that spreads
further up the social and economic system and a politician emerges to give
voice to these grievances that they translate into political action.” But here we
also depart company with Eatwell and Goodwin. For, while they invoke the
importance of political leadership, for them this is a matter of capturing pre-
existing perceptions that are rooted in direct experience.
When Eatwell and Goodwin refer to a sense of “loss” and decline among
those who voted for Donald Trump and Brexit and for other right- wing
populisms, the evidence to support them is overwhelming. To take just two
gures, 62% of Trump supporters felt that life was worse for people like them
than it had been 50years ago, while only 26% of Clinton supporters felt the
same way (Eatwell & Goodwin, 2018); 89% of Clinton supporters felt that
the country was headed in the right direction, while a mere 7% of Trump
supporters agreed (CNN, 2016).
Equally, when Eatwell and Goodwin refer to the widespread sense of dis-
trust in and alienation from mainstream politics, they stand on rm ground.
us, they report that, by 2012, little over 20% of U.S.voters believe that
the government can be trusted and that, in 2016, only just over a third of its
citizens believe that “my voice counts in the EU.” What is more, as Cramer
(2016) reports, there is also evidence that they have reason to be alienated.
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us, policy makers rarely take note of the views of any but the most pow-
erful of voters (see also Bartels, 2008).
So, there is little doubt that people do perceive that they have real social
problems and that these perceptions are rooted, at least in part, in their ac-
tual experiences of precarity and marginality. However, it is a very dierent
thing to suggest that their diagnoses of why they are in such a mess and their
prescriptions of how to get out of it are rooted in direct experience. To be
more concrete, the right- wing populist narrative generally attributes the
problems people face to the machinations of a distant elite combined with
the inux of outsiders (“clean out the swamp” and “build a wall” in the case of
Trump; “take back control” and “end free movement” in the case of Brexit—
cf. Judis, 2016; Mudde, 2017).
Yet most people who support populists have very little direct experience
of either. In the case of central government this is self- evident, and indeed
they are dened by their distant and opaque nature (Cramer, 2016). In the
case of migration, the evidence indicates greater support for populisms (e.g.,
Brexit) in areas of lower migration, and, even though Eatwell and Goodwin
(2018) counter this by pointing to the fact that the picture changes when one
looks at the rate of ethnic change, the fact remains that most people have lim-
ited interaction with incomers. Indeed, by the very fact that the concern lies
with what might happen it has to be rooted in prognosis rather than percep-
tion. Or rather, it was fear of immigration rather than immigration itself that
drove Brexit (Travis, 2016).
So, who provides these diagnoses and prognoses? Who explains peo-
ples’ predicaments in terms of elites and outsiders when other and poten-
tially more plausible explanations determine their plight (for instance, the
local as well as the distant employers who limit their wages and make them
redundant)? Who creates fears and identies the origins of those fears in
elites and immigrants? e answer is those politicians who don’t simply give
voice to preformed grievances but who actively provide a framework for
making sense of, and dealing with, their problems. ere is ample evidence
that leaders regularly employ use anti- immigrant rhetoric and, moreover,
that they are successful in creating anti- immigrant sentiment (Bailey, 2008;
Bohman, 2011; Statham, 2003).
To be clear, we are not suggesting that people are mindless dupes of char-
ismatic and Machiavellian populists. Ours is an interactionist stance. We
stress that people have real problems and that their sense of disenchantment
and decline is based in direct experience. But that is not enough. To address
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these problems people need to make sense of what is happening to them and
how to deal with it (see also Bilewicz & Liu, this volume; Hirschberger &
Ein- Dor, this volume; Hopkins & Dobai, this volume; Leach, this volume)
. at requires understandings of things that lie outside direct experience.
erefore, people have to rely on such political narratives as are available
to address their plight, to identify threats, and to propose solutions (Jetten,
Ryan, & Mols, 2017; Portice & Reicher, 2018).
Or rather, they have to choose between the dierent narratives that are
on oer (see Hopkins & Dobai, this volume; Klar, Schori- Eyal, & Yom Tov,
this volume). And when (as we have shown) conventional politics systemat-
ically ignores the voice, the concerns, and the experience of many sections of
the electorate, then the space for an “antipolitical” populist politics becomes
all the greater. In that regard, Ronald Reagans rst major political campaign
to become California Governor in 1966 is particularly telling. As DeGroot
(2015) argues, what mattered was that he (unlike his opponent Pat Brown)
actually talked about things in the lives of ordinary people, albeit from a
very conservative viewpoint. Following this logic, it is arguable that the vic-
tory of Trump and of Brexit derives as much, if not more, from a failure of
leadership on behalf of their opponents— not just a failure to address and
oer alternative accounts of the experience of those feeling “le behind,” and
not only a failure to understand the appeal of the eventual winners, but still
worse, a response (Trump voters are “deplorables,” Brexiteers are ignorant
xenophobes) that played into their hands by exemplifying the idea of a po-
litical world divided into ordinary folk and disdainful elites (Cramer, 2016;
Reicher & Haslam, 2017). By contrast, let us seek to understand the appeal of
the winners by addressing in a little more detail the worldview that they oer
to the electorate.
Resentment (and Entitlement)
In describing the viewpoint of those parties and party supporters who blame
outsiders and elites for the plight of the people, one word recurs endlessly:the
word is resentment. For Burrin (2005) it is central to understanding Hitler
and the rise of Nazism. Accordingly, he cites a passage from Hitler’s noto-
rious speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, in which he states that a
new world war will lead to the extermination of the Jewish people:“I have
oen been a prophet and have usually been mocked for it. At the time of my
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struggle for power it was the Jews in particular who scoed...Ithink that
the echoes of the laughter of those days are now sticking in the gullets of
the Jews” (Burrin, 2005, p.76). Burrin explains that this image of laughter
exemplies an enormous resentment. Resentment, he explains, “is a sense of
injustice, of being in the right and yet mocked, accompanied by an awareness
of impotence as a result of which one becomes obsessed with memory of all
the unfairness suered” (p.77).
Marc Ferro (2010) goes further, seeing in resentment a basic motor of so-
cial change throughout history. As in the case of Hitler, this is rooted in a
sense of humiliation by the otherhe quotes Antoine Barnave to the eect
that he became a revolutionary the day a noble drove his mother from the
loge she was occupying at a Grenoble theatre. However, he also stresses that
resentment is particularly acute under conditions in which one is humili-
ated by people who one once dominated:“how could we become the slaves of
those who were our slaves?” (p.120).
Drawing on Burrin and Ferro, we can make a number of points about the
nature of resentment. It is not only about material loss, it is also about loss of
status and of dignity (as Goodwin and Eatwell also stress). Moreover, it is not
just about loss but about that loss publicly signifying a diminishment of the
general identity of the group. Finally, it is not just about being having one’s
identity diminished in relation to the other, but about the loss of something
to which one’s own group is entitled to another group that is not.
e issue of entitlement is particularly important. It explains both why
resentment may be more common among dominant group members and
also why the response may be more extreme. As Jetten (2019), along with
a number of authors (Fox- Genovese & Genovese, 2005; Kantola & Kuusela,
2018), argue, dominant groups create legitimizing myths to justify their el-
evated position— indeed, as Tajfel (1981) argues, such legitimation is one
of the core functions of social stereotypes. Whether it be because of their
distinctive qualities, their hard work, or simply their category membership,
elites therefore feel more entitled to privileges. By the same token, they feel
that subordinate groups are less entitled:ey lack the necessary qualities,
they are idle, or else they are simply outsiders and hence have no right to
group resources. Much anti- immigrant discourse involves all three elem-
ents:In particular, they have no right to the jobs, the benets, and the social
services that are properly the preserve of existing citizens.
In addition, to the extent that the notion of entitlement is a moral concept
(Kantola & Kuusela, 2018)— we deserve our position because we are good,
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hard- working people— so the preservation of that position can be defended
as a moral good. Aer all, if just anyone could claim privileges without any
basis whatsoever, it would undermine morality (as the already- privileged
see it). Indeed, there is a range of evidence to show that the most oppressive
and unequal societies are justied in the name of virtue (Fox- Genovese &
Genovese, 2005; Koonz, 2005)and, moreover, that the most extreme forms
of violence against those seen to threaten ingroup privilege are justied in the
name of preserving the greater good (Gere, 2017; Reicher, Hopkins, Levine &
Rath, 2005; Reicher, Haslam & Rath, 2008).
Perhaps the most vivid illustration of these various points comes from
Bartov’s (2018) analysis of the Holocaust in the small town of Buczacz in
Eastern Poland, now part of Ukraine. Here, the killings were not mecha-
nized or conducted by strangers in distant camps. ey were face to face,
oen conducted by erstwhile neighbors. Bartov argues that this is inexpli-
cable without taking into account the constant shis of power between the
various groups in the town— Poles, Ukranians, and Jews— during the 20th
century. Sometimes the Poles were on top, sometimes the Ukranians, and,
briey during the period of Russian occupation from 1940 to 1941, the Jews.
“Each groups conviction in the uniqueness of its own victimhood...went
hand in hand with a desire to punish those associated with its suering”
(Bartov, 2018, p.153).
But if the Poles resented the dominance of the Ukranians and the
Ukranians resented the dominance of the Poles, both at least acknowledged
the entitlement of the other to some degree of recognition. By contrast, both
were especially resentful of Jews, who were seen as quintessential outsiders
with no rights to position or privilege in the town. is came to a head when
many Jews occupied positions of power under the Soviets. To be pushed
around by those seen as lacking all entitlement was experienced as particu-
larly galling. It led to a desire to punish the Jews both for the extreme illegit-
imacy of what they had done and also as a means of reasserting power and
privilege. At its extreme, then, whern the totally entitled had not just been
threatened but actually usurped by the totally unentitled, the resentment
of the newly reempowered Poles and Ukranians allowed them to kill their
Jewish neighbors while looking them in the eyes.
AQ: Please conrm this
change from “Haslam
to “Hopkins” (see
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Eective leaders do not just dene a problem. ey also oer a solu-
tion: themselves— or at least the party or movement they represent. Put
slightly dierently, a key dimension of leadership in general is the claim not
only to serve the interests of the group but also to succeed in advancing the
group interest by turning group norms and group goals into realities. is
is what we mean when we call leaders “impressarios of identity” (Haslam,
Reicher, & Platow, 2011). Moreover, in order to communicate the viability
of their vision, leaders create a simulacrum of that reality within the political
movement before they do so in the wider world. Hitler, for instance, created
the experience of a hierarchical, ordered, homogenous, and unyielding com-
munity within the Nuremberg realities prior to imposing it on German so-
ciety at large (Spotts, 2002).
Both of these accomplishments— creating realities within and beyond
the movement— are of critical importance when it comes to xenophobic
populisms. ese are not just about bemoaning the inversion of a moral order
whereby “they” undeservedly have what “we” should have by right. ey are
also about restoring the moral order and making the world right again. ey
are about redemption as well as resentment. Or, as Brinkley (1983, p. 20)
argues of Huey Long, the American populist of the 1930s, he “tapped not
only the anger and resentment, but the hopes that lay just beneath them.
ere are three key elements in this perverse politics of hope. One is the
appeal to an original state in which the people were great— both moral and
powerful. ere is a particularly American form to this— what Bercovitch
(1978) calls the “American Jeremiad.” It rests on the notion that the United
States has a distinctive moral status and destiny in the world, which gives
the country unique entitlements but at the same time subjects its popula-
tion and leaders to constant scrutiny in order to see whether they are living
up to their mission. America is uniquely great. In the populist version it has
fallen low and must be made great again. However, America is not unique
in having such a view of its status, destiny, and plight. Similar analyses have
been made of Serbia (Anzulovic, 1999), Turkey (Islam & Kavakci, 2010), and
other countries besides.
e second element is the claim that group members themselves are at
least partially responsible for their plight by either allowing themselves to
become denatured (forgetting their true identity and destiny) and divided
(Ferro, 2010)— a state in which they could no longer resist the depredations
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of hostile outsiders. Moreover, third, the people themselves are no longer ca-
pable of overcoming these weaknesses. ey can only do so with and through
the leader who embodies them as a whole (Mott, 2016). Indeed, unless they
are completely united under the leader, they allow the continuing dominance
of their enemies. It is this that leads to the authoritarian and totalizing char-
acter of such movements.
All these elements come together in the performative politics of rallies,
demonstrations, and parades, which is why they are so important to
populists. We shall, shortly, analyze this more closely in the case of Trump’s
election campaign. For now, suce it to say that these things bring people to-
gether and choreograph them into a unity that brooks no dissent. At the same
time it provides a sense of empowerment in which order is restored, enemies
overcome, and a sense of limitless possibility is created (cf. Drury & Reicher,
2009)— something that is a source of powerful positive sentiment (Hopkins
etal., 2016). Let us nish, then, with two depictions of such events:one c-
tional, one not.
e rst is from the lm Cabaretabout the collapse of Weimar and the
rise of Nazism. In a famous scene, the English hero and a German friend
are in a country beer garden. A young boy rises to his feet, the camera
panned in close on his face, and in the purest voice starts to sing a sweet
melody: “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” As he sings, the camera pans out,
showing him dressed as a member of the Hitler youth. Soon, others— young
and old, peasant and professional, some in casual clothes, some in Nazi
uniform— join in. e tune takes a martial turn, and the single voice becomes
an impassioned choir. As the song reaches its crescendo, and the singers raise
their arms in a Hitler salute, the English hero turns to his friend and asks,
“you still think you can control them?” e question is le unanswered.
What is disturbing about the scene was that, despite knowing exactly what
it portended, it is hard not to nd it alluring at some level:the palpable pas-
sion and sense of hope, the notion that “tomorrow belongs to me.” Does
this indicate a contemporary failure of imagination over the horrors of the
Holocaust? But then, consider this second depiction, taken from Milton
Mayer’s pioneering study of “ordinary Nazis.
Mayer cites an anti- Nazi activist who was arrested in 1943 for sheltering
Jews. She decribes watching a Nazi festival in Stuttgart in 1938 and nearly
being swept o her feet by the “enthusiasm, the new hope of a good life, aer
so many years of hopelessness” (1955/ 2017, p.51). en she continues:
AQ: Please add this
work to the References.
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      
I was sitting in a cinema with a Jewish friend and her daughter of thirteen,
while a Nazi parade went across the screen, and the girl caught her mother’s
arm and whispered “Oh, Mother, Mother, if Iweren’t a Jew, Ithink I’d be a
Nazi!” (p.51).
Clearly it is unsettling to acknowledge the appeal of something we know to
be so toxic. But only if we do make such an acknowledgment can we begin to
make sense of the success of toxic leadership and of toxic social movements
that mobilize the privileged to exclude or even eliminate their imagined
enemies. Only if we provide a more rounded analysis that presents these
movements as centering on redemption as well as resentment will we under-
stand how and when they triumph. Having sketched a general outline, let us
now put esh on the analysis by considering two specic examples of mobi-
lizing elite victimhood.
Mobilizing Dominant GroupVictimhood
Where to start with Donald Trump? ere is a mountain of material. But, for-
tunately for our sake, it is succinctly summarized in his concluding presiden-
tial campaign argument— the so- called Argument for America. However
one responds to the argument, it is undeniably a powerful and coherent piece
in its combination of words and images and music. Before reading our anal-
ysis it would be helpful for the reader to watch it (e New Republic, 2016).
e argument culminates with Trump intoning:“I’m doing this for the people
and for the movement and we will take back this country for you and we will
make America great again”— where “Make America Great Again” is the cam-
paign slogan that appears concurrently on screen. e words encapsulate the
core points in Trump’s pitch. First, he establishes the American people as a
natural elite:America was great. Second, he establishes this status as being
under threat:America isn’t as great as it was. ird, he establishes that his
Presidency will recover Americas rightfully dominant status:America will
be great again.
When it comes to identifying the source of threat, Trump is equally ex-
plicit. In the 226 words of his argument he explicitly references the “establish-
ment” ve times, variously characterized as “failed and corrupt,” as a “corrupt
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machine,” as conducting “disastrous trade deals,” as having “bled our country
dry,” and as having “robbed our working class, stripped our country of its
wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations
and political entities.” Moreover, if the establishment— this internal enemy—
acts illegitimately against “the American people,” it acts in concert with and to
the advantage of an external enemy. ey work for “global special interests,
they “partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind,” and they
send “our jobs” to “Mexico, China and countries all around the world.
But if Trump sets up a problem, the culmination of his argument lies in
identifying a solution. Pictures of storm clouds swirling over Washington
give way to pictures of joyous cheering crowds at Trump rallies. “e only
force strong enough to save our country is us,” he declares. e American
people, through Trump, will be triumphant. eir collective power wielded
through his agency will make America great again.
is rhetoric, then, combines all the themes we identied above:leader-
ship, of course, but one that mobilizes through the construction of a domi-
nant group losing its position and becoming a victim; of resentment at those
who take away what is rightfully “ours” and give it to others who have no such
entitlement; and of the prospect of redemption through the leader.
Yet, the power of Trump’s campaign lay not only in the rhetorical con-
struction of resentment and redemption in speech, sound, and image. It also
lay in his rallies, which were central to the campaign (see Stone, 2017)and
wherein his vision was not just declaimed but performed (Alexander, 2011;
Butler, 2015). at is, the rallies were like little morality plays in which the
audience members were actors and Trumps worldview was made real. We
have previously described this in some detail (Reicher & Haslam, 2017), so
for now a brief summary will suce.
Trump rallies during the Presidential campaign took a standard form.
About an hour before he comes on stage security guards fan out, standing
in front of and observing the audience. e message is clear:We are under
threat. ere are disruptive elements in the crowd (those who are opposed
to Trump or are not suciently enthusiastic in their support for him). If
they are spotted, the advice is not to act against them but to signal their pres-
ence by chanting the leader’s name. When the candidate nally arrives, he
decides what should happen. He decides how they should be treated, oen
not only advocating expulsion but sometimes sanctioning violence:“If you
see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them,
would you,” he said on February 1, 2016 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
AQ: e year for this
work is listed as 2018 in
the References. Which
is correct?
AQ: Please cite source
for quotation.
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Trump does not limit his ire to protestors. Gwen Guilford (2016) describes
how he turns on the media, generally penned in just behind him, and how
he describes them as “disgusting” and “dishonest,” sneering at them, goading
them, orchestrating the audience to turn, to glare and to boo. One of those
reporting, Matt Taibi, acknowledged that Trumps speeches were
visual demonstrations of his power over us. We in the press, obediently
clustered inside our protective rope and/ or standing mute on a riser in the
middle of the hall, would sit looking guilty...while Trump blasted us as the
embodiment of the class that had le regular America behind. (Taibi, 2017,
He further argued that Trump’s “triumph over us was a major factor in con-
vincing ordinary people that he could deliver on his rebellious rhetoric”
(Taibi, 2017, p.xx).
In sum, then, the rallies bring alive a cast comprising the American people
(the audience), the enemy within (the media, part of the elite establishment),
and the enemy without (protestors). But unlike everyday life, in which people
feel undermined by the enemy without and silenced by the enemy within,
here, through the aegis of Donald Trump, the enemy without is expelled, the
enemy within is silenced, and the American people are made great again.
At rst glance, it might seems somewhat odd to invoke ISIS as an example
of dominant group victimhood, mobilized through narratives of resentment
and redemption. Resentment, perhaps. But surely, ISIS appeals to the dis-
possessed and the disenfranchised. Surely, also, the obsession of ISIS is with
death and destruction rather than hope and renewal. Indeed, the organiza-
tion has been characterized as a death cult both by academics (Roy, 2017),
by a string of politicians including Barak Obama and David Cameron, and
above all by the media. Hence Fahmy (2016) refers to the “brutality— death,
killing and torture— which our news is xated on.
Yet, in an analysis of 528 images taken from the ISIS English language
magazine Dabiq from its inception in July 2014 to November 2015, Fahmy
shows that only a little over an eighth (13.8%) depicted brutality. By con-
trast, the great majority of images projected what Fahmy calls an “idealistic
AQ: Please add page
number for quotation.
If there are no page
numbers, then please
add paragraph number
or section title.
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caliphate”:a strong and united force, smiling ghters embracing each other,
victorious parades, handing our bounty to the needy. More concretely, 86%
of images were about the power of ISIS and its ability to form a new pristine
homeland for Muslims that reproduced the original community around the
To understand the full signicance of this, let us place this analysis of
images within an analysis of the text that surrounded them in Dabiq. To start
with, similar to Trump, there is nostalgia for a glorious past when Muslims
were true to their faith like the companions of the Prophet (Sahabah) and the
generations that followed them (Salaf). rough unity in faith came power,
and Islam expanded in victory aer victory against its Christian and Jewish
foes. But this state of true Islam has been lost:“we no longer nd the state
of Islamic aairs that existed...when there were many noble sahabah as
leaders, judges and military commanders in the lands of the Muslims.1 is
was the era of the “jihad against Persia and Rome, the conquests of Sham
[Syria], Iraq and Khurasan [part of central Asia], and the emergence of
Muslim reign and its expansion to Al- Andalus [Spain] in the West.
As with Trump, too, the reason for this fall from grace is put down to a com-
bination of external and internal enemies. Dabiq propounds a Manichean
worldview. To cite from an article entitled “e world has divided into two
camps,” these are described as “the camp of the Muslims and the mujahdin
everwhere and the camp of the Jews, the crusaders, their allies and with them
the rest of the nations and religions of kufr [unbelievers].” Moreover, as the
language of “crusaders” suggests, the “unbelievers” will always try to destroy
Islam. More explicitly:“they use their power to tyrannize the weak and op-
pressed Muslims.
Such oppression is possible because some Muslims— the internal enemy—
abandon the pristine faith, divide Islam, and hence destroy its power. is
extends to anyone who rejects the authority of ISIS, rejects their notion of
a caliphate, and continues to live “amongst the kufr.” Such people become
corrupted, “the hearts distant from the Quar’an,” and they nd the Islamic
texts to be ridiculous because they become attached to Western materialist
ideologies. As long as they reject the ISIS caliphate, they are apostates and
enemies, ultimately becoming part of “blatant Christianity and democracy.
is includes rival Sunni groups that have been “sucked into the trenches of
the apostate media” and Shiism in general, which is described as “nothing
but a plot by a Jew.
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e upshot of this is that, in the modern world, the kufr enemy has
appropriated what rightly belongs to Muslims. is includes their mate-
rial possessions (Westerners “plunder the goods of your lands and rob you
of your wealth”), their dignity (Muslims are “in a constant feeling of sub-
jugation to a [kufr] master”), and their very identity (being Muslim em-
ployed by a Westerner “leads to humiliation that could possibly over time
lead to concessions followed by an inferiority complex composed of kufr”).
Critically, though, this narrative of loss— loss of power, loss of status, loss of
entitlement to the unentitled— and of resentment serves to set up the core of
the ISIS appeal. United under ISIS, obedient to ISIS doctrine (that is, through
complete unication of all Muslim peoples and lands under the single au-
thority of the Khalifah”), and based on unremitting struggle against external
and internal enemies, Muslims will regain their power and their rightful po-
sition. is is expressed in words:“the spark has been lit here in Iraq, and
its heat will continue to intensify— by Allah’s permission— until it burns the
crusader armies in Dabiq.” But pictures express this equally— 86% of photos
in the magazine Dabiq focus on unity and solidarity, on power and might, on
victory, and on the idealized Muslim community. Overall, combining word
and image, this is a message that appeals by oering hope and redemption.
You will always be humiliated and enslaved in the West. You will only regain
dignity and identity in the caliphate. To adapt a phrase, the ISIS message can
be summarized as “make Muslims great again.
e aim of this chapter has been to shi the focus of attention to dominant
group victimhood, to argue that the most toxic outcomes occur when dom-
inant group members come to see themselves as victims, and to provide a
psychological analysis of when and why that might be the case.
e analysis was based on four elements, though these might be helpfully
divided along two dimensions. e one dimension concerns the content of
representations of dominant group victimhood. is involves a sense of ac-
tual or potential loss of dominance; a sense of resentment at this loss, which
is bound up with issues of entitlement (the undeserving are taking what
we deserve) and hence provides a moral dimension to restitutive actions;
Vollhardt031019MEDUS_MU.indd 290 12-Dec-19 01:34:56
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and nally the prospect of redemption— of restoring the rightful order of
things— through action.
e other dimension concerns the genesis of these representations. ey
are not unmediated perceptions of reality. Rather, they are narratives oered
by leaders with the aim of mobilizing people around the leader as represen-
tative and savior of the group (Haslam etal., 2011; Portice & Reicher, 2018).
ey need to make sense of peoples’ direct experience and oer a solution to
the problems that people experience, but precisely because they are oriented
to changing reality, they are not to be judged purely in terms of their accuracy
in describing the present (cf. Dixon, 2017).
is point is important in two regards. On the one hand, it is not actual
threat to group position that initiates the dynamics of dominant group vic-
timhood but, rather, acceptance of a narrative that invokes the threat of loss
and identies the culprits. As Eatwell and Goodwin (2018) suggest, the extent
of mobilization depends upon how far up the social scale this acceptance- of-
a- loss narrative extends. On the other hand, and perhaps even more con-
sequential, the very notion of being a dominant group is itself constructed
through leadership narratives. In our examples, we saw how both Trump and
ISIS construct the idea of an original state of greatness that has been unfairly
taken away. So, inverting Eatwell and Goodwin’s insight, we can also argue
that the extent of mobilization depends upon how far down the social scale
the narrative of past and future dominance can be extended.
To conclude, then, our argument is not simply about victimhood as it
applies to “objectively” privileged groups. It is ultimately about the toxicity of
a particular construction of victimhood:One that transforms eliminationist
violence into the restitution of a rightful moral order. For it is when we be-
lieve ourselves to be acting for the moral good that the most appalling acts
can be committed (Fiske & Rai, 2015; Reicher etal., 2008).
1. Given the security issues involved in accessing issues of Dabiq, we do not provide ref-
erence details here, and we advise against directly accessing this material. Quotes here
are taken from Padwal (2016).
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AQ: References for
chapters in this volume
were deleted; the in-text
citations are sucient
for the reader to locate
the work.
AQ: In the chapter text,
the year for this work
is cited as 2015. Which
year is correct?
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... Populist rhetoric is constructed around the idea that the "once upon a time" powerful group lost its position and became a victim (Reicher & Uluşahin, 2020). Oftentimes, populist rhetoric blames multiple groups at once. ...
... Populism as an ideology often thrives on hate, and we have witnessed many instances in which far-right populist groups often endorsed the hateful ideology and used it to create their narratives of being the 'victims' of a system (Reicher & Uluşahin, 2020;Sirotnikova, 2021). According to the social identity approach, the content of what it means to be 'us' and what is seen as a moral to 'us' can be rhetorically shaped by leaders and then endorsed by followers (i.e., Hitler's vision of Germany endorsed by Germans; Elcheroth & Reicher, 2017). ...
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In recent years, the questions of what populism is and how populist leaders mobilize their followers have been the subject of extensive debate. While the social psychology literature holds unique theoretical tools that can be used to explain leader-follower dynamics, these have not yet been applied to understand populism and populist leadership. In this paper, we aim to discuss populism as a social-psychological concept and provide a comprehensive approach to examine the interactions between populist leaders and followers by using the identity leadership model (see New Psychology of Leadership, Haslam et al., 2020). Accordingly , we propose an integrative model in which we suggest that populism should be treated as a social-psychological concept based on (i) strong ingroup identification; (ii) interactive leadership processes that open spaces to followers for enacting their ingroup identity that end up with mobilization against vertical (e.g., elites) and horizontal (e.g., minorities , refugees, opponents) outgroups; (iii) leader's ingroup prototypicality and identity entrepreneurship that is boosted by using shared grievances, narratives of collective victim-hood, and the destabilization of mainstream opponent leaders. Furthermore, by discussing real-world examples and recent studies, we aim to show how the content of what it means to be 'us' and what is seen as moral to 'us' can be shaped by populist leaders for mobilization.
... 20)-it makes one's perceptions feel like truths and one's resentments feel righteous (cf. Reicher & Ulusahin, 2021;Wetts & Willer, 2018). ...
... Political movements easily cohere around a shared feeling of injurywhat Vamik Volkan (2001Volkan ( , 2021 calls chosen traumas-and of being entitled to compensation for it, whether the injury is truly devastating, or a minor loss of status or privilege for a group that remains demographically and politically dominant, like white American Christian men (e.g., Gabbatt, 2021;Reicher & Ulusahin, 2021). Brain-imaging studies show that grievance and resentment can even be addictive (Kimmel, 2020). ...
Ferenczi’s conception of identification with the aggressor, which describes children’s typical response to traumatic assaults by family members, provides a remarkably good framework to understand mass social and economic trauma. In the moment of trauma, children instinctively submit and comply with what abusers want—not just in behavior but in their perceptions, thoughts, and emotions—in order to survive the assault; afterwards they often continue to comply, out of fear that the family will turn its back on them. Notably, a persistent tendency to identify with the aggressor is also typical in children who have been emotionally abandoned by narcissistically self-preoccupied parents, even when there has not been gross trauma. Similarly, large groups of people who are economically or culturally dispossessed by changes in their society typically respond by submitting and complying with the expectations of a powerful figure or group, hoping they can continue to belong—just like children who are emotionally abandoned by their families. Not surprisingly, emotional abandonment, both in individual lives and on a mass scale, is typically felt as humiliating; and it undermines the sense that life is meaningful and valuable.But the intolerable loss of belonging and of the feeling of being a valuable person often trigger exciting, aggressive, compensatory fantasies of specialness and entitlement. On the large scale, these fantasies are generally authoritarian in nature, with three main dynamics—sadomasochism, paranoid–schizoid organization, and the manic defense—plus a fourth element: the feeling of emotional truth that follows narcissistic injury, that infuses the other dynamics with a sense of emotional power and righteousness. Ironically, the angry attempt to reassert one’s entitlements ends up facilitating compliance with one’s oppressors and undermining the thoughtful, effective pursuit of realistic goals.
... 246). Thus, the far-right's collective identity needs to be oriented towards a social reality that portrays the ingroup as the "real" victim (Noor, Vollhardt, Mari, & Nadler, 2017;Reicher & Ulusahin, 2020). Consequently, mobilising against an alleged threat becomes a necessary and virtuous duty (Reicher, Haslam, & Rath, 2008). ...
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Far-right collective action has previously been explained in terms of collective grievances. However, this does not adequately explain mobilisations after ingroup-relevant successes. Based on the broader collective action literature, we suggest that analysing experiences of subjective power before and during collective action may significantly complement existing explanations of far-right mobilisations. We used secondary data (predominantly videos from YouTube and ProPublica) from the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and the 2021 Washington Capitol insurrection to qualitatively examine the extent to which attendees reported experiencing collective psychological empowerment alongside the perception of collective grievances. The events were connected by the effort to unify the far-right yet were shaped by different immediate contexts. We find that at Charlottesville, attendees arrived already feeling empowered and gained further empowerment from the rally itself. While the Capitol insurrection seemed to be driven by collective grievances, there were some indicators of empowerment experiences mainly deriving from the event itself. Our analysis has implications for disempowering far-right collective action.
... Nevertheless, these works have either tended to underplay the leading role of populism in the co-construction of those very feelings of loss of status among dominant groups (e.g. Reicher and Ulusahin 2020), conflate populism with other logics such as nationalism or nativism (e.g. Heller 2020), focus exclusively on certain dimensions of privilege (i.e. ...
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This article examines the phenomenon of the "populism of the privileged", whereby relatively privileged groups articulate populism to legitimize and enhance their positions of domination. Despite the growing literature on populism, few studies have attended to this counterintuitive construction of "the people" as an underdog struggling against a power bloc from a position of relative privilege. By examining the Catalan independence movement during the 2010s, this study draws on discourse theory to conceptualize the "populism of the privileged" and explore how various dimensions of sociological privilege are used to legitimize and reinforce dominant positions within Catalonia and Spain by means of populist politics. Finally, the article engages with the implications of the "populism of the privileged" in terms of inter-group relations, political integration, and the democratic principle of equality. By offering a nuanced analysis of this underexplored phenomenon, this article contributes to the growing literature on populism and provides insights into the complex relationship between populism, privilege, and power.
... Social psychologists should further explore the sources of perceived discrimination by White Americans which, when intensified, have severe consequences for less-advantaged members of society (Reicher & Ulusahin, 2020). In fact, in many countries advantaged groups' claims of marginalization correlate with support for far-right parties and illiberal policies (Urbanska & Guimond, 2018). ...
Many national or racial majority groups increasingly perceive discrimination against their group, despite objective indicators of advantage. The present studies simultaneously test three individual‐level explanations of perceived discrimination among White Americans: system legitimizing beliefs, economic precarity, and group interest, in addition to corresponding predictors at the context (state) level. Using multilevel analysis, we analyzed nationally‐representative data from the 2016 American National Election Survey (N = 2631)—an election period marked by discourse about majority group grievances. Results showed that, at the individual level, system‐legitimizing beliefs (symbolic racism, conservatism, realistic, and symbolic threat) predicted perceived discrimination among Whites, as did objective (income) and subjective (perceived financial insecurity) economic precarity. Conversely, group interest (indicated by White racial identification) was not a significant predictor. At the state level, support for the Republican candidate also predicted perceived discrimination. These findings replicated with data from the 2012 American National Election Survey (N = 3261). We discuss the implications of White Americans’ discrimination claims in the current socio‐political climate.
... Although recent approaches improved theorizing in the intersection of political science, communication, and social psychology by introducing social identity premises (e.g., Bos et al., 2020;Hameelers & de Vreese, 2020;Mols & Jetten, 2020;Uysal, 2022), we believe that current trends still lack the conceptualization of the right-wing populism in psychological terms. We argue that populism should be understood through an active mobilization and subjective understanding of the individuals who endorse populist beliefs and collective victimhood narratives instead of intergroup relations based on objective social status (e.g., Armaly & Enders, 2022;Reicher & Ulus xahin, 2020;Uysal et al., 2022). ...
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Right-wing populism which had been considered fringe just a few years ago became gradually more mainstream. Given the epidemic impact of divisive populist rhetoric on hostile behavior and its strong association with anti-immigration, it is important to ask whether people endorsing populism also justify attacks against asylum seekers. Using the German General Social Survey data (N = 3,268), we tested a model in which the endorsement of populist beliefs predicted sympathy for attacks against asylum seekers in Germany, through national pride and moral justification of political violence. Results showed that people who evinced higher endorsement of populist beliefs showed also higher sympathy for attacks against asylum seekers. Furthermore, national pride and moral justification of political violence mediated the relationship between populist beliefs and sympathy for attacks against asylum seekers. The role of right-wing populism in the justification of violence toward outgroups is discussed within a contemporary social-psychological framework.
... Relatedly, recent developments in the study of shame and its consequences have sparked a debate about whether shame is adaptive or maladaptive and, consequentially, Relatedly, it may be interesting to look into what kind of leader characteristics or rhetoric may draw the most support among poor people. Recent notions (Obradović et al., 2020;Reicher & Ulusahin, 2020) have highlighted the relationship between perceived victimhood and support for populist leaders, suggesting that the latter increase support by painting their followers as victims. Regarding the present findings, it seems likely that individuals with a negative self-perception may be especially drawn to leaders who absolve them of their responsibility for their fate by framing them as victims. ...
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The literature has widely discussed and supported the relationship between poverty and support for authoritarian leaders and regimes. However, there are different claims about the mediating mechanism and a lack of empirical tests. We hypothesize that the effect of poverty on support for authoritarianism is mediated by shame: People living in poverty frequently experience social exclusion and devaluation, which is reflected in feelings of shame. Such shame, in turn, is likely to increase support for authoritarianism, mainly due to the promise of social re-inclusion. We support our hypothesis in two controlled experiments and a large-scale field study while empirically ruling out the two main alternative explanations offered in the literature: stress and anxiety. Finally, we discuss how the present findings can support policymakers in efficiently addressing the negative political consequences of poverty.
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This article explores the use of populism by comparatively privileged groups, a specific type of populism we call the ‘populism of the privileged’. Our argument is not merely that ‘populisms of the privileged’ are also forms of populism, but that they warrant a specific label. We first identify intersections between populism and privilege on the levels of populist actors, support for populism and beneficiaries of populism, which we call populism by, with and for the privileged. We then present a discursive conceptualization of ‘populism of the privileged’. Building on this we develop analytical strategies for the study the ‘populism of the privileged’, zooming in on how ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’ are constructed in such populisms, their sociological directionality, the layeredness of privilege and un(der)privilege, the discursive construction of ‘crisis’ and ‘unmet demands’ and the role of discourses about populism in reproducing the claims of populisms of the privileged.
This essay highlights the potential analytical leverage from the import of recent approaches in social and political psychology into the study of politics in Russia. The core argument is that social psychology offers suitable conceptual and analytical tools to explore the political phenomena that have come to the forefront of social and political processes in Russia over the past decade. Social psychology is best at dealing with collective emotions and allows for integrating into the political analysis such affective issues as resentment, national humiliation, and collective victimhood. It also enables the appreciation and exploration of the phenomenon of political leadership from a collective perspective.
This article examines the contours of “the public’s morality(ies)”, either as an aggregate of individuals’ public hopes and fears or (in the plural) as particular mixes of hopes and fears stemming from individual (or coalitional) moral convictions. Our theoretical understanding of one aggregate “public morality” relies upon Derek Edyvane’s presentation of a civic virtue premised upon an austerity whereby citizens value a collective sense of protection as highly as the realization of their individual public aspirations. We scrutinize Edyvane’s theoretical construct in reference to a collection of citizen letters responding to Gerald Ford’s 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon made available by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. These letters illustrate a conceptual typology of public morality that reflects various combinations of the public hopes and fears Edyvane delineates; this typology accommodates most of the available letters. Psychological studies pertaining to prosocial behavior, individual moral convictions, and conspiracy beliefs are reviewed to understand sectarian fears that animate current political discourse. In this regard, we offer examples of political utterances appearing to fall outside Edyvane’s treatment of public fears. A final discussion considers how citizen fears arising from disparate moral convictions affect administrative decision-making. It also directs attention to behavioral public administration that offers a micro-level perspective on individual behavior that impacts governance.
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The idea that economic downturns and economic deprivation provoke tensions and intergroup hostility is remarkably pervasive. These accounts often work from the premise that economic crises provide ‘fertile soil’ for populist parties and leaders with an anti‐immigrant agenda. This may explain why we intuitively expect that ‘hard times’ produce ‘harsh attitudes’ towards minorities. However, there is also robust empirical evidence showing that intergroup hostility (and anti‐immigration sentiments more specifically) can surge in times of economic prosperity, and among relatively affluent groups. In this paper, I will review evidence showing that intergroup hostility (such as anti‐immigrant sentiments) can be equally prevalent in times of relative gratification: when the economy is prosperous and booming and among more affluent sections of the population (accounting for the “Wealth Paradox”, Mols & Jetten, 2017). In the second part of this contribution, I will explore these processes through the lens of classic social identity theorising focusing on the way that status anxiety, status threat, and fear of falling among members of wealthier groups are shaped by the permeability of group boundaries and the security of wealth positions. I argue that social identity theorising, typically applied to explain the behaviour of low status groups, can provide a parsimonious account for why and when high status (i.e., as a result of affluence and prosperity) may be associated with hostility towards minorities rather than with greater tolerance. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press 2015, 248 S., EUR 24,95, ISBN 978-0-674-96775-5. Die Kritik an der Voraussetzung eines souveränen Subjekts und einer vom Individuum ausgehenden Handlungsmacht ist in poststrukturalistischen und queer-feministischen Theorien eine breit vertretene Position. Dabei steht kaum ein Name so prominent für die subjektkritische Perspektive wie der von Judith Butler. Im Zuge der Subjektkritik stellte sich die Frage nach neuen Konzeptualisierungen von Kollektivität und der Möglichkeit politischer Handlungsfähigkeit, ohne auf identitären, essentialisierenden oder individualistischen Prinzipien aufzubauen. Judith Butlers „Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly“1 stellt einen Versuch dar, diese Problematik theoretisch zu fassen und Antworten zu formulieren. Drei der sechs darin versammelten Beiträge bauen auf Vorträgen (Mary Flexner Lectures) am Bryn Mawr College auf; diese Lectures und die Rede anlässlich der Verleihung des Adorno- Preises sind zwischen 2012 und 2014 schon in Zeitschriften beziehungsweise Sammelbanden erschienen. Zwei Kapitel (1 und 5) stellen hingegen bis dato unveröffentlichte Texte dar. Es fa¨llt auf, dass die Texte im Vergleich zu früheren Schriften Butlers in einer einfacheren Sprache geschrieben sind, was bei der Komplexität der Materie keine Selbstverständlichkeit ist. Butler nimmt die Lesenden an die Hand und versucht, sich in mo¨gliche Denkweisen hineinzuversetzen und entstehende Fragen vorwegzunehmen. Sie beleuchtet Probleme aus vielen Perspektiven und kreist im Text ihre eigenen Begriffe ein. Offensichtlich ist, dass die Arbeit unter dem Eindruck von Massenprotesten entstand, von denen einige Umwälzungen sozialer und politischer Ordnungen zur Folge hatten (was von vielen kritischen Theoretiker_innen gar nicht mehr für möglich gehalten wurde). Butler beschreibt vor allem Proteste im öffentlichen Raum (Occupy- Bewegung, Pegida, Gezi-Park, Tahirplatz usw.) und setzt dabei ihren Fokus auf kollektive Körperpolitiken. Sie beschreibt, wie Körper im Modus des Protests neue Formen der Sichtbarkeit herstellen und greift für diesen Zweck Hannah Arendts Konzepte des Erscheinungsraums und der Politik auf.
Jeffrey C. Alexander examines what was new about Egypt’s Spring revolution. Why was it so compelling to watch, and what made it so effective and does it have implications for democratic movements internationally. Using international news reports and translations of the social media pages that brought Egyptians flocking onto Tahrir Square, Alexander uncovers the narrative of a revolution that was scripted by its organizers, as both a moral statement and a media and digital statement. He sees it as a theatrical performance, designed to reveal to the key protagonists what a civil, egalitarian society might look like, by showing it in microcosm on the Square. Ultimately, he argues, it was the sight of the protestor’s behaviour that swayed the army, and brought about regime change. From the author of the widely acclaimed 2010 book: The Performance of Politics: Obama’s Victory and the Democratic Struggle for Power, this powerful intervention into the debate on the Arab Spring is a must-read for those curious about how social media are fundamentally changing global politics.
In this article, we develop a mobilization analysis of contemporary antagonism to immigrants. We argue that such antagonism does not arise spontaneously from the cognitions of ordinary people but is mobilized by political actors. This leads us to ask why politicians mobilize such antagonisms and how they do so. Our analysis, illustrated by set piece speeches on immigration by the four main U.K. party political leaders in the period prior to the 2015 elections, suggests (1) that while these speeches are ostensibly about an intergroup issue, they equally serve intragroup dynamics, notably demonstrating how the speaker serves national interests and hence qualifies to serve as a national representative; (2) the way that speakers mobilize antagonism to immigrants is through construing a variety of forms of threat: spatial threat, economic threat, security threat, and diversity threat. We focus particularly on the last of these because of the ways in which it invokes social psychological arguments and hence speaks in our name. We conclude by raising issues of accountability—both of politicians and social psychologists—regarding the way we talk about immigration.
The West is currently in the grip of a perfect storm: a lingering economic recession, a global refugee crisis, declining faith in multiculturalism, and the rise of populist anti-immigration parties. These developments seem to confirm the widely held view that hardship and poverty lead to social unrest and, more specifically, scapegoating of minorities. Yet in this provocative new book, Mols and Jetten present compelling evidence to show that prejudice and intergroup hostility can be equally prevalent in times of economic prosperity, and among more affluent sections of the population. Integrating theory and research from social psychology, political science, sociology, and history, the authors systematically investigate why positive factors such as gratification, economic prosperity, and success may also fuel negative attitudes and behaviours. The Wealth Paradox provides a timely and important re-evaluation of the role that economic forces play in shaping prejudice. Challenges the widespread and oft-repeated assumption that economic crises provide fertile soil for popular unrest and far-right voting Will appeal to social psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, and any other social scientist interested in societal tensions and intergroup conflict Serves as an important reminder that far-right parties can succeed without an economic crisis, but also that it is not necessarily those at the bottom of the social ladder who fear immigration most.
This article examines the moral boundary work of wealthy Finnish entrepreneurs belonging to the country’s top 0.1 per cent of earners. Through 28 semi-structured interviews, we show how these members of the wealth elite construct moral boundaries to legitimise their growing distance from other income groups in a Nordic welfare society. The super-rich entrepreneurs construct self-identities based on hard work, persistence and normality, draw moral boundaries between lazy and hard-working people and create moral distance between themselves and wage earners, the unemployed and public-sector workers. At the same time, these wealthy elite entrepreneurs challenge the moralities of Nordic welfare society. We thus posit that moral boundaries and boundary work should be explored as legitimising discourses embedded in the relations of economic and political power.
In 2008, an era of unprecedented growth and prosperity came to an end, and the world was plunged into the Great Recession, a Global Financial Crisis (GFC)—the worst since the 1930s Great Depression. We examined whether it is low- or high-SES people that are most affected psychologically—and most likely to express concern about the future vitality of their group—by uncertainty associated with economic instability. In two experiments, we found that even though those lower in SES report more collective angst than their wealthier counterparts, those who are higher in SES are more likely to become concerned when presented with information that the economy is a bubble about to burst, elevating their collective angst levels. Both studies also showed that collective self-definitions as competent and warm were affected by wealth but not by economic instability. Competence ratings increased with increasing wealth, whereas warmth ratings were lower for those both lower and higher in wealth, compared to those with moderate wealth. In Experiment 2, we also found that opposition to immigration was higher for the high-income group in the unstable than in the stable economic prospect condition. We conclude that even though those lower in income experience chronic collective angst, collective angst levels for those higher in income are elevated when they fear they may be living in a bubble economy—a bubble that may burst any moment.