Political reactionism as affective practice: UKIP supporters and non‐voters in pre‐brexit England

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    United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) supporters and non‐voters in England participate respectively in forms of engaged and disengaged anti‐political activity, but the role of individual, group‐based, and collective emotions is still unclear. Drawing upon recent analyses of the complex emotional dynamics (e.g., ressentiment) underpinning the growth of right‐wing populist political movements and support for parties such as UKIP, this analysis explores the affective features of reactionary political stances. The framework of affective practices is used to show how resentful affects are created, facilitated, and transformed in sharing or suppressing populist political views and practices; that is, populism is evident not only in the prevalence and influence of illiberal and anti‐elite discourses but also should be explored as it is embodied and enacted in “past focused” and “change resistant” everyday actions and in relation to opportunities that “sediment” affect‐laden political positions and identities. Reflexive thematic analysis of data from qualitative interviews with UKIP voters and non‐voters (who both supported leaving the EU) in 2015 after the UK election but before the EU referendum vote showed that many participants: 1) shared “condensed” complaints about politics and enacted resentment towards politicians who did not listen to them, 2) oriented towards shameful and purportedly shameless racism about migrants, and 3) appeared to struggle with shame and humiliation attributed to the EU in a complex combination of transvaluation of the UK and freedom of movement, a nostalgic need for restoration of national pride, and endorsement of leaving the EU as a form of “change backwards.”.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)260-273
    Number of pages14
    JournalPolitics and Governance
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Thanks are extended to Dr. Su Jones, Dr. Nathan Kerrigan, L. J. Potter, and Dr. Philippa Carr for assisting with interviewing and transcription as researchers in the Identities and Resilience in Communities and Organisations team of the former Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, Coventry University. Dr. Chris R. Day proofread an earlier draft and Terri Sullivan provided proofreading of the final manuscript.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 by the author.


    • Affective practice
    • Brexit
    • EU referendum
    • National pride
    • Non‐voters
    • Populism
    • Reactionism
    • Ressentiment
    • Shame
    • UKIP

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Public Administration


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