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Political Emotions as Public Processes: Analyzing Transnational Ressentiments in Discourses

Part of the Palgrave Studies in International Relations book series (PSIR)


Political ressentiments are shared emotional attitudes that are constantly (re)articulated in public discourses. Due to their textual (re)production, they are very amenable to interpretative research. To identify political ressentiments, researchers need to analyze discourses for articulations of cognitions, affective arousals and action tendencies that form the typical pattern of these negative emotional stereotypes. This chapter demonstrates how such a list of textual indicators can be derived from philosophical and psychological research into the nature of ressentiment. It then empirically illustrates the application of these heuristic tools by analyzing the SYRIZA administration’s discourse on Greek-German relations before concluding with a brief discussion of the benefits, wider applications and limitations of this kind of discourse analysis.

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  1. 1.

    This chapter partially draws upon Wolf (2015) and Wolf (forthcoming).

  2. 2.

    On such stabilizing effects of emotions, see (2012, pp. 82, 103); (2013, Chaps. 2, 3 and 4).

  3. 3.

    This temporal endurance is indeed a crucial element. Meltzer/Musolf reserve the French term “ressentiment” to this persistent feeling . I also use the English term, as it is widely understood as referring to a long-term emotion.

  4. 4.

    Here the first three types of indicators are of special importance, while the absence of the latter two does not rule the presence of ressentiments. After all, alter may not yet have experienced status diminution.

  5. 5.

    The 2016 book chapter referenced here is a condensed version of a book Kotzias (2013) had published in Greece. Unfortunately, there is no English version.

  6. 6.

    For additional elite references to parallels between contemporary German conduct and the Nazi era see also Michailidou (2016) and Zafiropoulou et al. (2015: 89–90).

  7. 7.

    For a government statement stressing both Greece’s role as a “guardian of European culture” and its solidarity with “the [other] countries that are supporting the refugees , including Germany , Austria, Sweden and others”, see Xydakis 2016.

  8. 8.

    In fact, polling data showed that anti-Germany stereotypes were very prominent in the Greek public (Katzikas 2015). On stereotypes in the Greek media discourse, see Tzogopoulas (2015).


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Wolf, R. (2018). Political Emotions as Public Processes: Analyzing Transnational Ressentiments in Discourses. In: Clément, M., Sangar, E. (eds) Researching Emotions in International Relations. Palgrave Studies in International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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