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Video: Sociologist Rory McVeigh on the politics of losing

Author: Todd Boruff

 

“I'm particularly interested in not just how individuals who have certain attributes view a particular problem or view inequality, but I give particular attention to places — the way that people find themselves in group settings, the way that the community around them shapes their understanding of inequality.” 

— Rory McVeigh

Rory McVeigh is the Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor in Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Social Movements at Notre Dame. His research interests include inequality, social movements, political sociology, and race and ethnicity. More information can be found on his faculty page.


Video Transcript

As a sociologist, I'm particularly interested in not just how individuals who have certain attributes view a particular problem or view inequality, but I give particular attention to places — the way that people find themselves in group settings, the way that the community around them shapes their understanding of inequality.

I have a new book coming out that's bringing together some of my past work with the contemporary political context and it's called The Politics of Losing: Trump, the Klan, and the Mainstreaming of Resentment. I'm making these direct comparisons throughout the book between the rise of the movement that supported Donald Trump and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

During those time periods of economic and political transformation where people who have been enjoying certain advantages are being undermined, we saw Klan leaders kind of opportunistically coming in and interpreting these economic changes in racial terms and in ethnic terms. The Trump campaign was able to tap into not only the difficulties that that these people were facing but also, again, opportunistically interpreted these changes in terms of race, in terms of ethnicity. The more integrated the society becomes, the more diverse it becomes, the harder it is to kind of easily map economic distress on to cultural identities in a way that generates the kind of support that we have seen time and time again in American history.

Notre Dame is really an ideal place for me to do this kind of work. What I do is very consistent with kind of the emphasis on social justice that comes with the Catholic intellectual tradition — how we can understand social problems and fix them and bring people together. I've found the students here to be just really a joy to work with. A lot of the work that I've published over the years, I owe the students a debt because they keep me on my toes and they make me think about things in ways I might not have thought about them before so it's been very gratifying.