Leadership by Resentment

Leadership by Resentment

From Ressentiment to Redemption

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Ruth Capriles

The author explores the conditions that foster the development of ressentiment, the role of leaders and followers, and the phases of the phenomenon as it encourages destructive behaviors such as murder and suicide. Often considered an incurable disease with destructive social and political repercussions, it is a core motive for acts of terrorism, revolutions, social upheavals and processes of toxic leadership. The author puts forth a model that helps to describe certain historical processes led by ressentiment, like some revolutions and terrorist acts, and to distinguish them from other movements that are usually treated as similar (e.g., independence revolutions). The book then tackles a seemingly impossible question: Can we find a cure for this powerful and destructive impulse? With care and deliberation, the author demonstrates the power of ethical leadership, recognition and redemption as positive unifying forces during human conflicts.

Series editor’s preface

Ruth Capriles

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership

Extract

Resentment is an ugly emotion. When infected by it, societies and individuals often behave badly. The English word ‘resentment’ describes a feeling. Its French counterpart, ‘ressentiment,’ comprises not just the feeling of resentment, but also the complex web of beliefs that foster it, and the impact of this feeling on individuals, groups, and societies. In this unique and important contribution to leadership studies, Ruth Capriles takes us on a sophisticated philosophic journey into the pathology of ressentiment and the ways in which leaders infect their followers with it to achieve their goals. Capriles calls ressentiment a morally harmful ‘political passion’. Rather than empowering people, she says, it plays on their sense of impotence, corrodes their souls, erodes their institutions, and distorts social relationships and values. In this book, Capriles details the nature of this emotion and ‘social disease’ and then shows us what it looks like in practice through a number of examples and her case study of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Here she describes how Chavez systematically cultivated ressentiment and used it to grow a base of compliant followers who feel strong because they nurse a smoldering rage over a real or invented insult, grudge, injustice, or claim against others. Such followers are capable of abandoning human decency because of their misplaced belief that it is necessary to even the score. Capriles’ examples demonstrate how ressentiment allows terrorists to justify killing children and citizens to rationalize attacking their neighbors. This book offers insights into the emotions and...