Introduction: meaningfulness and meaninglessness This chapter investigates meaninglessness, one of Seeman’s (1959, 1972) fi ve varieties of alienation. We link it to the closely related concepts of ressentiment and resentment. These two affective phenomena represent adaptive reactions to perceived unjustifi ed suffering, the experience of losing power and position, and feelings of relative deprivation. Meaning ful ness connotes making sense, coherence, and order out of some event, phenomenon, the social world, or the totality of one’s life. Interpreting one’s existence as meaning ful signifi es being able to comprehend how and why events occur, achieving a sense of purpose, having goals toward which one can strive (Reker, Peacock and Wong 1987), noting and understanding one’s accomplishments, and sensing that these have importance beyond oneself. Seeman (1959:786) provides a succinct defi nition of meaningfulness (and, conversely, therefore, of meaninglessness) as “the individual’s [lack of a] sense of understanding [of] the events in which he is engaged.” Seeman further characterizes meaninglessness as “a low expectancy that satisfactory predictions about future outcomes of behavior can be made.” Meaninglessness therefore connotes senselessness, or the perception that events in the social world occur in seemingly mysterious or incomprehensible ways that defy causal analysis or even mundane understanding. In everyday speech, meaninglessness means “without importance or purpose” or “without value” (Erwin 1970:3). Purpose means that one’s current activities will have an effect on future outcomes, while value means that one’s actions are assessed as morally good and correct. Baumeister (1991) suggests that, besides purpose and value, a feeling of effi cacy or a sense of having the ability to mobilize resources in order to control important life outcomes, or make changes in an individual’s or group’s situation, is essential to prevent meaninglessness (H. Smith and Kessler 2004:301). A “will to meaning” is an innate human necessity. Frustration of this “will to meaning” can engender a deep rage, self-hatred, and a “bitter resentment toward life” (Diamond 1996:29).