Right Ressentiment As Reaction: Whither Democracy?

Friday, 20 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Lauren LANGMAN, Loyola University of Chicago, USA
The first decade of the 21st C, marked by a variety of progressive, democratic protests and movements, the EZLN in Chiapas, the anti-globalization protests of Seattle, Geneva etc. the World Social Forum, or the “Pink Tide” in South America, was seen as a harbinger of growing democratic movements throughout the world. This is especially the case after Arab Spring/Southern Europe/OWS. But this was not to last, the next decade witnessed right-wing reactionary movements and mobilizations in Poland, Hungary, Austria, France, England (Brexit) India, Turkey, Brazil, and even the ascent of Donald Trump – supported by among the most reactionary elements of the society. How can we explain this shift? While there is no simple explanation, many journalists as well as social scientists have attributed this to the consequences of globalization especially after the 2008 implosion of the American economy. And to be sure, growing economic hardships and mushrooming inequality played a significant role, the question remains, why did these movements shift to the right and not the left in so far as both agendas promised ameliorative social change. A number of studies have suggested that much of the shift was tied to alienation rooted in various aspects of cultural changes, not the least of which included growing precariat classes including many college graduates that become unemployed or underemployed, growing migrations of people in the global economy, and the rapidity of social change. In many cases, the combination of these economic factors, together with demographic and cultural changes were experienced as assaults upon collective identities and values that undermined the status of many groups- this in turn fostered ressentiment to existing and often progressive elites and the embrace of reactionary leaders and movements the promised restoration the now lost world. Nevertheless, it seems as if these movements have rekindled progressive mobilizations.