Leadership by Resentment
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Leadership by Resentment

From Ressentiment to Redemption

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.
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Ruth Capriles


The study of ressentiment has shown us how emotions play an important role in political life by disrupting social relationships and hindering the advance of democratic arrangements. It has shown how democracy is not a stable equilibrium, and not even a standard goal for many societies where people find easy justifications to deny values and forgo freedom for the sake of equality. And from the authors referred to we have learned that history is a struggle for values, and furthermore, for the recognition of one’s own value. When social orders break up and there is a crisis over values, that is, a revolt of ressentiment, we need to find new agreements that allow people to find redemption for the grievances committed and suffered. But after redemption of past grievances we need to proceed on the agreed set of values that will sustain the ethical system and curtail the chance of engendering new ressentiments. It is a question of social choice, a very simple choice, albeit difficult to make. Either we empower the people, recognize everyone as a human peer, include them in the distribution of values, or we will face constant revolts of ressentiment, nihilism, terrorism, despotism, genocide. From revolt to redemption, leadership is paramount in producing and sustaining new political agreements. Leaders are the chief cultivators of both ressentiment and redemption. The rules of the transformation of power derived from Scheler’s law helps depict the practical alternatives of leadership (see Table P.1). I use Robert Dahl’s concept of ‘polyarchy’...

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