A Thymotic Left? Peter Sloterdijk and the Psychopolitics of Ressentiment
Abstract: According to the criticisms of Slavoj Žižek and Alberto Toscano, Peter Sloterdijk‟s recent work contains an anti-egalitarian and anti-universalist discourse that is inherent to a Nietzschean concept of politics based on a hierarchy of affects instead of universal ideas. Although it is true that the clinical problem of ressentiment constitutes the ethical core of Sloterdijk‟s interest in „psychopolitics‟, it implies much more than an instrument of interpreting radical politics as an irrationality or pathology. In fact, picking up the arrow first shot by Nietzsche and then by Deleuze, Sloterdijk‟s work is important and original precisely because it provides us with a clinical focus on the affective infrastructure of the present that does not facilitate the moral self-gratification of the democratic Right. His entire work should rather be read as an attempt to speak and act without ressentiment and in this way to explore the practical conditions of a politics that escapes from the alternative of liberal versus communist as it prevails in contemporary critical theory. This is demonstrated through a detailed study of Sloterdijk‟s development of, and political answers to, the problem of ressentiment, beginning with the Critique of Cynical Reason and continuing until the Spheres-trilogy and his recent essays on the temporal structure of rage and zealotry.