The Politics of Discontent: How Politicians Leverage the Theory of Relative Deprivation

Relative deprivation is a theory that explains the feeling of discontent and frustration that arises from the belief that one is not receiving their fair share of resources or opportunities compared to others in their social group or society. When individuals or groups experience relative deprivation, they may feel anger, resentment, or a desire for change.

Politicians often exploit this feeling to gain support and votes. They may use rhetoric that blames certain groups for the relative deprivation of others, creating a sense of us vs. them. By framing the issue in this way, politicians can appeal to those who feel left behind, portraying themselves as champions of the underdog.

For example, a politician might point to the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of society, arguing that the system is rigged against the working class. They may blame immigrants or other marginalized groups for taking jobs and resources away from native-born citizens. By doing so, they tap into the relative deprivation felt by those who are struggling to make ends meet or who feel that their opportunities have been limited.

Unfortunately, exploiting relative deprivation in this way can be divisive and harmful. It can create animosity between different groups and undermine social cohesion. It can also lead to the election of politicians who prioritize their own interests over those of the broader population, exacerbating the very problem they claimed to address.

And Social Cohesion Matters…

To combat the exploitation of relative deprivation, it’s important to recognize when politicians are using this tactic and to resist the urge to be swayed by divisive rhetoric. Instead, we can work to promote policies that address the root causes of relative deprivation, such as economic inequality and lack of opportunity. By building a more equitable society, we can reduce the sense of relative deprivation and promote greater social harmony.