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Ressentiment is the emotion of the outsider looking in – to what? – with envy and powerlessness. It’s ascendant among the ranks of the precariat and gigger.

It’s an emotion that results from secularism, meritocracy, egalitarianism and market fundamentalism, ideologies which strip away social bonds and leave us each to struggle – nobly – on our own.

Ressentiment manifests in the outsider as envy, fascination and revulsion; and in the insider as vanity and narcissism.

The outsider is envious of the insider who is an empty shell. The insider, steeped in schadenfreude, hates. The outsider struggles to differentiate himself from peers and friends, and learns to love his abasement.

Rinse and repeat.

Here is Pankaj Mishra on the Age of Anger:

Ressentiment – caused by an intense mix of envy, humiliation and powerlessness – is not simply the French word for resentment. Its meaning was shaped in a particular cultural and social context: the rise of a secular and meritocratic society in the 18th century. Even though he never used the word, the first thinker to identify how ressentiment would emerge from modern ideals of an egalitarian and commercial society was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. An outsider to the Parisian elite of his time, who struggled with envy, fascination, revulsion and rejection, Rousseau saw how people in a society driven by individual self-interest come to live for the satisfaction of their vanity – the desire and need to secure recognition from others, to be esteemed by them as much as one esteems oneself.

But this vanity, luridly exemplified today by Donald Trump’s Twitter account, often ends up nourishing in the soul a dislike of one’s own self while stoking impotent hatred of others; and it can quickly degenerate into an aggressive drive, whereby individuals feel acknowledged only by being preferred over others, and by rejoicing in their abjection. (As Gore Vidal pithily put it: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”)


Welcome to the Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra

manifestations of hubris
June 12, 2016, 4:12 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , ,

photo: Andras D. Hajdu

The ancient Greeks had a vote in which the most popular senator was ostracized because they understood the corrupting influence of power. Often it’s the most aggressive person who advances and not the most qualified, capable or instinctual, and it’s painful to be left behind. The talkers take charge of the knowers and feelers; confidence manages competence. Hubris is mistaken for leadership ability.

“In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women. ”


“This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women.”

Why do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? Harvard Business Review

a revolution of human relationships: outrospection
October 5, 2011, 9:50 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,


I have decided to do something new with coromandal, namely to use posts to introduce readers to very good sources of information on given topics.

This first post is an introduction to Roman Krznaric’s blog called outrospection.  It is about – as its subtitle makes clear – “empathy and the art of living.”  I have written several posts in coromandal on empathy, mostly in response to the writing of Jeremy Rifkin for whom the issue is a serious preoccupation.

Krznaric describes the purpose of his writing and the potential emancipatory function of empathy in our lives: