The politics of concern and denunciation

By | May 14, 2023

In the last five years, the term grievance policy is often used in political sociology literature mainly in English. The possibilities of translating it into Greek are limited: “complaint policy” and “concern policy” are probably the available translation options. Regardless of the terminological attribution, it can be understood as a concept of gender that includes the individual related concepts: political protest, conflict politics, regression politics (regression politics), reaction politics (backlash politics), nativism/indigenism, reactionary , resentment policy

However, the concept of “complaint” is not new to the study of collective action. In the 1980s it was used in the analysis of sociopolitical movements to denote moral demands and objections against the “system” from which individuals mobilize in public space when they feel they are not being treated fairly. Thus, in a sense, any claim and protest can be characterized as an expression of grievance politics. But this is not the way the term is used in recent political-sociological and political-psychological research.

Although there is no commonly accepted definition, “grievance politics” more or less refers to idiosyncratic bottom-up mass political participation, as well as a kind of top-down exercise of power governed by moralism, negative and hostile feelings, strong personification (figurative charisma) and consequent narrowing of the parties as organs of organization, mediation and representation of social interests. The intrusion of this concept is welcome since it clears up “populism”, which has ended up being used as a basket-category in which we put many of the components of “grievance politics” and more.

In the context of the treaty in question, a horizontal axis of political and cultural polarization is configured with the use of propaganda media, so that on the one hand public opinion is divided on the most controversial issues of public life and on the other hand they are incompatible “moral tribes”, whose members perceive political reality in diametrically opposed ways. Hence the “alternative” realities and the “alternative truth” of Donald Trump (in the relevant literature, “Trumpism” more fully exemplifies “grievance politics”). This horizontal axis is crossed by the vertical axis of social class inequalities and overlapping crises, which generate intolerance and malaise, but instead of being directed towards the “power elite” they move to the target groups (immigrants, refugees, communities LGBTI, etc.). . ).

Four interpretations of the phenomenon can be distinguished: a) The spatial one, according to which the advantages of (big) cities and the greater life opportunities they offer generate envy in the inhabitants of the countryside. b) The political-cultural, which focuses on the reaction of the older ages to the emancipatory values ​​and freedom of the younger ones. c) The socioeconomic one that emphasizes income inequalities and multiple social exclusion. d) Demography, which interprets it based on population movements and the negative attitude of the natives towards the new entrants who necessarily absorb part of the available resources (attitude, not unknown in Greece).

It is evident that, in variable proportions, the politics of grievance (also) is formed through the indoctrination of the aggrieved subjects by demagogic elites with the help of social networks. This is exactly where miserabilism thrives: being perpetually uncomfortable with and resentful of the actions of one’s political opponent, usually the government. It is an attitude that despises but above all renounces everything positive that happens, on the one hand because its generous acceptance would abolish it, and on the other because it feeds and accommodates itself to “the worse the better”.

It is a canceled satisfaction in the face of the positive of public life. It arises from a generalized resentment and culminates in a narcissistic victimization where poverty and misery become objects of pleasure. Exacerbated in pre-electoral periods, this attitude is expressed through the use of derogatory moral language such as p. that of Mr. Polakis, Mr. Velopoulos but also that of the KKE where the words “filth”, “filth”, “greed”, “carelessness”, “shame”, “misery” prevail. Words we often hear these days.

On the “demand” side, an important predictor is the emotional energy mustered and released by those involved in the complaint and/or concern policy process. Their frustrations and resentments are caused by the real or perceived degradation of their social status and the overwhelming need for recognition, that is, for dignity. Let’s remember that restoring dignity was a key component of SYRIZA’s speech in the 2015 elections. But even now, dignity and a just society are values ​​that Greeks expect in 2040, according to a very recent survey (March 2023). . ) by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission and ITE (

When one feels “a stranger in one’s own country” – a seven-year-old book of the same name by Arlie Hochschild, an authority on the sociology of emotions – one rightfully claims home, an emotional cradle to belong to and be respected. The question is whether this search will follow an authoritarian or a democratic course.

*Nikos Demertzis is Professor of Political Sociology and Communication at EKPA

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