Julian Sanchez (one of my favorite bloggers) tags the French term ressentiment as a useful way to understand 21st C American conservatism, or at least the monster masquerading as such. The word means:
“…a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.”
I’m currently reading a bunch of books on 20th C American history, mostly cultural histories and histories of foreign policy, for my spring comprehensive exams. On those exams I’ll be trying to assess the impact of American exceptionalism on policies both foreign and domestic since the Victorian era. Seems like there’s a link between these two ideas, or that–at the very least–they reinforce one another.
I’ll be posting more and more about my comps reading as the exams get closer…you guys are going to LOVE it.