Far-Right Violent Extremism as a Failure of Status: Extremist Manifestos through the Lens of Ressentiment

Sophie Kaldor 11 May 2021

This paper nuances existing understandings of terrorists’ motivations by uncovering the emotional process of ressentiment in the manifestos of three far-right violent extremists. Through the application of Reinhard Wolf’s framework of discourse analysis, it finds that ressentiment plays a significant role in self-legitimating perpetrators’ attacks, though the resented group is different than expected. Surprisingly, the object of the far-right extremist’s ressentiment is the economic and political establishment, not the migrant community. Relevant to policymakers, the paper finds that while the extremist’s grievances towards the resented group are all-encompassing (making negotiation futile), the processual quality of ressentiment leaves open the possibility for targeted intervention before the extremist has taken too many steps towards internalising this attitude.