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From one of the world’s most celebrated moral philosophers comes a thorough examination of the current political crisis and recommendations for how to mend our divided country. For decades Martha C. Nussbaum has been an acclaimed scholar and humanist, earning dozens of honors for her books and essays. In The Monarchy of Fear she turns her attention to the current political From one of the world’s most celebrated moral philosophers comes a thorough examination of the current political crisis and recommendations for how to mend our divided country. For decades Martha C. Nussbaum has been an acclaimed scholar and humanist, earning dozens of honors for her books and essays. In The Monarchy of Fear she turns her attention to the current political crisis that has polarized American since the 2016 election. Although today’s atmosphere is marked by partisanship, divisive rhetoric, and the inability of two halves of the country to communicate with one another, Nussbaum focuses on what so many pollsters and pundits have overlooked. She sees a simple truth at the heart of the problem: the political is always emotional. Globalization has produced feelings of powerlessness in millions of people in the West. That sense of powerlessness bubbles into resentment and blame. Blame of immigrants. Blame of Muslims. Blame of other races. Blame of cultural elites. While this politics of blame is exemplified by the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit, Nussbaum argues it can be found on all sides of the political spectrum, left or right. Drawing on a mix of historical and contemporary examples, from classical Athens to the musical Hamilton, The Monarchy of Fear untangles this web of feelings and provides a roadmap of where to go next.


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From one of the world’s most celebrated moral philosophers comes a thorough examination of the current political crisis and recommendations for how to mend our divided country. For decades Martha C. Nussbaum has been an acclaimed scholar and humanist, earning dozens of honors for her books and essays. In The Monarchy of Fear she turns her attention to the current political From one of the world’s most celebrated moral philosophers comes a thorough examination of the current political crisis and recommendations for how to mend our divided country. For decades Martha C. Nussbaum has been an acclaimed scholar and humanist, earning dozens of honors for her books and essays. In The Monarchy of Fear she turns her attention to the current political crisis that has polarized American since the 2016 election. Although today’s atmosphere is marked by partisanship, divisive rhetoric, and the inability of two halves of the country to communicate with one another, Nussbaum focuses on what so many pollsters and pundits have overlooked. She sees a simple truth at the heart of the problem: the political is always emotional. Globalization has produced feelings of powerlessness in millions of people in the West. That sense of powerlessness bubbles into resentment and blame. Blame of immigrants. Blame of Muslims. Blame of other races. Blame of cultural elites. While this politics of blame is exemplified by the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit, Nussbaum argues it can be found on all sides of the political spectrum, left or right. Drawing on a mix of historical and contemporary examples, from classical Athens to the musical Hamilton, The Monarchy of Fear untangles this web of feelings and provides a roadmap of where to go next.

30 review for The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharad Pandian

    Let me just say at the start that if you're someone who hasn't read any Martha Nussbaum before, and are looking for some philosophical self-help material in what seems like a dark time, this is probably a pretty good book for you. Unfortunately I don't quite fit that demographic, and despite loving Nussbaum (or rather, because) this book was a total disappointment for two reasons. The first is that there is no new content at all here, everything is just a copy-paste job of various books she's wri Let me just say at the start that if you're someone who hasn't read any Martha Nussbaum before, and are looking for some philosophical self-help material in what seems like a dark time, this is probably a pretty good book for you. Unfortunately I don't quite fit that demographic, and despite loving Nussbaum (or rather, because) this book was a total disappointment for two reasons. The first is that there is no new content at all here, everything is just a copy-paste job of various books she's written before. The second is that while this work is supposed to be a political analysis of sorts, its naivete makes it pretty worthless in this regard because of its total insensitivity to power. I'm just going to expand of these two point below. Criticism #1: Unoriginality Admittedly the author is open about how she's bringing in ideas from her earlier work, but apart from one of two new examples, every approach, stance, argument, and example has just been lifted. She starts off with a psychoanalytic approach of infantile fear, which was cool when she first introduced it in Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. She then applies this analysis to fear, to try to indicate how it propels people to irrationally fear certain people and practices, by comparing the burka with more accepted costumes like ski masks, as she did in The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age. She then talks about anger, using a fascinating reading of Aeschylus' Eumenides with which she starts off Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice. From this book she also borrows her close reading of Martin Luther King's iconic "I have a dream" speech to argue for the importance of not giving into hatred, and instead channeling the constructive "transitional anger". Then she quickly summarizes her work on disgust from Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law, where she points out how bodies are always a problem from us, and how we project disgust onto different groups through imagining or focusing on bodily secretions. She then uses Kate Manne's framework (slightly tweaked and with credit) from Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny for understanding misogyny as opposition women face when they move away from male care to independence. She lists the 10 capabilities on her list of minimum human capabilities that people should be entitled to, as in Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. She ends with the argument from Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, according to which hope is important, and you should hold onto critical love, come what may. I mention this in detail, because I think if you're going to phone it in and simply rehash your old ideas, you should state that on the cover of your book, instead of tricking (even if unintentionally) long-time readers into spending time and money working through material they've already seen. Criticism #2: Bad political analysis But let's for a moment ignore the repetition by accepting the not-terrible excuse that it might still be valuable for a prolific writer like Martha Nussbaum to write a book which summarizes and connects the different work she's produced. The presence of a lot of disparate ideas does make you think about connections, except this isn't always a good thing here. Although a lot of ideas get thrown at you, in a lot of places it's entirely unclear why. For example, the psychoanalytic bits really are fascinating, but I really don't see what they add to an analysis of political fear that won't be captured by simply stating that "everyone feels fear, and this is deep and ineradicable". And some of the connections seems tenuous at best - for example, even if we were to accept the account of infantile fears, why think this somehow shapes all our adult psyches? There are some suggestive anecdotes and metaphors, but that's it. But above all, the problem is that as a book that's supposed to show how "A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis", it provides incredibly little insight into anything political. All of her tools certainly make sense in their own domains, but they're not particularly useful for any kind of serious political analysis. I suspect that if anyone was asked about what exactly they learned after they reading this book, they would come up empty. This is because what Nussbaum is desperately defending is a stance or method of freely and respectfully exchanging ideas, without letting the more primitive and overbearing parts of us taking over. What she wants to defend then is Socratic philosophy: [Philosophy] is about leading the “examined life,” with humility about how little we really understand, with a commitment to arguments that are rigorous, reciprocal, and sincere, and with a willingness to listen to others as equal participants and to respond to what they offer. Philosophy in this Socratic conception does not compel, or threaten, or mock. It doesn’t make bare assertions, but, instead, sets up a structure of thought in which a conclusion follows from premises the listener is free to dispute. Very nice and poetic, but this seems like a great example of the kind of philosophy that Raymond Geuss denounces in Philosophy and Real Politics, which is the kind of philosophy that tries to focus on some autonomous domain of ethics antecedent to, or at least independent from, political thought. The problem with this approach is that it becomes woefully blind to power and cares only about how people speak to and about each other. For example, she rightly criticizes Donald Trump for this rhetoric about immigrants, Muslims, and non-white people. But then she turns around and praises George Bush for always being careful about pointing out that it wasn't all Muslims or Islam itself that America was warring with, saying "for me, this is how a responsible leader reacts in the face of widespread popular fear". Which is nice, except for the slightly inconvenient fact that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afgans died in wars that the responsible leader started. Of course, she isn't praising this aspect, but it is still jarring because it reveals a myopia to power and its effects in the real world. It's also simply unclear why we should think that the norm of disinterested Socratic debate is that approach best suited to achieve political goals. While she obviously wants to both have deliberation and justice, it isn't Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech I kept hearing while reading her, but rather the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" on the white moderate: Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” She might object to this, because she continuously insists on how injustices like racism are deeply wicked, but insisting on certain norms of action and exchange, which limit what you can do and feel, might plausibly slow down change. Simply mentioning the handful of successful non-violent leaders like Mandela and Gandhi isn't enough to make the case she needs. This is particularly seen when she argues that both sides, the left and right, need to stop feeling angry if it's a kind of anger that's vindictive. Ok, this might not be terrible advise, but trying to parse the anger of the deeply disenfranchised and telling them they need to feel "transitional anger", which doesn't want payback but only constructive solutions, comes off like weirdly policing the oppressed since she doesn't offer any criticism of the deeply exploitative classes which everywhere wield material and political power. Plus, she also seems insufficiently tuned into the complexities of the reactions of oppressed people. She appears to take as axiomatic that well-being cannot consist in social put-downs of others, but it seems to me that when a racist is called out and punished, it might legitimately be helpful to the community's sense of justice. She might still insist that these actions, even if right, should be cleansed of certain vindictive intentions, but at that point she just seems to not have anything actually relevant to offer. (I'll admit, the tools she uses here actually were successful in her analysis of the Indian religious-Right in The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future, but that was because in that case she actually did analyze the practices, beliefs, and the complex sociocultural and historical contexts in which it gained power. Without that kind of specific context here, her analysis just comes off as wispy liberal moralizing.) She obviously has good intentions here too, but since its not even clear if her purified anger would be more politically efficacious, this all just looks like a privileged white woman randomly defending bankers against overly-vicious leftist attacks. She even offers a bizarre reading of the musical Hamilton, which she ends by saying: It’s a jolt, but a salutary one, to see young people cheering for the banker, and we should applaud Miranda for, among other things, undercutting the politics of envy by his surprising choice of a hero since Alexander Hamilton was involved in setting up the central banks. Maybe she's just trying to be even-handed by criticizing the left and the right, but this urging for norms of civility needs to be argued for contextually and with an eye for actual consequences, not just assumed as axiomatic. Do bankers, with their hoarded wealth and power, really need another defender? And even if it isn't really about bankers but the health of the body politic, by lecturing about norms while ignoring all entrenched power, her "analysis" seems at best inappropriate, and at worst deeply pernicious. If all you have to offer is 272 pages of "don't treat the rich man badly, also racism is bad", maybe you shouldn't write that book. In the end, stripped of any analysis of power, all she really offers people in this moment is a kind of "emotional sustenance" that is meant to keep them from despair and keep them hopeful about the possibility of change they can bring about. Which is something, but not much. If this review seems rather negative, it's because I don't think I want to praise points which aren't new, and since this is a pretty useless book for actual political analysis, it's safe to say that you should read it only if its brand of navel-gazing obsession with your own emotions is what you want. Otherwise go read some other actually serious book, even one of Nussbaum's earlier books like the excellent The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, where she stays in her lane and doesn't claim to offer political analysis when she clearly isn't providing any.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charles J

    I was going to write a very long, and very scathing, review of this book. In fact, I did write much of it. But then I realized it was a pointless exercise, like shooting fish in a barrel, and nobody is listening. Suffice it to say that this book is a joke, a preaching to the leftist choir, in which the ends are decided on and laughable reasoning inserted to justify those ends. One can sum up the whole book in three words: Orange Man Bad!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    83rd book for 2018. Full of seemingly superficial platitudes that fails, despite it's title, to engage in the current political crisis. 2-stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    Martha C. Nussbaum is one of the great contemporary philosophers and this book an interesting application of her thoughts around emotion in relation to the recent political environment in the United States. Nussbaum analyses how a few primal emotions are having dramatic impact on the way society is developing and how this is influencing the way people vote. As you can probably tell from the title one of these emotions is fear; but Nussbaum also includes anger, envy, and hope. Each chapter starts Martha C. Nussbaum is one of the great contemporary philosophers and this book an interesting application of her thoughts around emotion in relation to the recent political environment in the United States. Nussbaum analyses how a few primal emotions are having dramatic impact on the way society is developing and how this is influencing the way people vote. As you can probably tell from the title one of these emotions is fear; but Nussbaum also includes anger, envy, and hope. Each chapter starts off defining and contextualizing the emotion (or social construct) and then provides an analysis of how this is being demonstrated in society, what the impacts may be, and also some recommendations on how to address the challenges or harness the benefits of the emotion. If you've never read anything by Nussbaum before, or if you're interested in political/social philosophy, this is a fantastic book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    When I heard that Martha Nussbaum had published a new book on “our political crisis” - politics around and after Trump’s election - I had to read it, even though I suspected that there would be few pat answers or clear solutions to the issues that she raised. Nussbaum is a wide-ranging philosopher at the University of Chicago. She is know for a huge body of work among which are wonderful studies of classical political theory, virtue, human development, and the role of emotions in politics. It is When I heard that Martha Nussbaum had published a new book on “our political crisis” - politics around and after Trump’s election - I had to read it, even though I suspected that there would be few pat answers or clear solutions to the issues that she raised. Nussbaum is a wide-ranging philosopher at the University of Chicago. She is know for a huge body of work among which are wonderful studies of classical political theory, virtue, human development, and the role of emotions in politics. It is impossible to neatly summarize all that she has done. It is, however, unfailingly thoughtful, readable, and insightful. One of the more vexing aspects of the 2016 election is that while it cries out for careful and critical thinking, the American political scene on display in the election does not seem to be amenable to the careful thinking one has come to expect from someone like Professor Nussbaum. Phrases involving “rationality” or “reason” have not been critical parts of the explanations put on the market since the election. It often seemed more like the occasion for an anthropological expedition. This is whether Professor Nussbaum enters. The book is a follow-up to her recent 2016 book on anger and forgiveness. Like the earlier book, this is an effort to subject the political emotions running rampant to some careful scrutiny - not to nullify the role of emotions but to clarify what they are and where they have come from. In any attempt to change policies or behaviors, careful understanding will still be needed, even in the midst of political emotions driving voters. Without giving away much - the book is worth reading - the story line starts with fear, and a discussion of all the different reasons for fear in 2016. She makes some good comparisons to FDRs invocation of “the only thing we have to fear is fear, itself” at the start of his presidency. Then she discusses a series of related emotions - anger, disgust, envy, and related issues like sexism, misogyny, and antisemitism. The key to her argument is that it is the interaction of political fear with these other emotions that created such intensely negative dynamics and consequences in the context of the 2016 election. In determining what to do, Nussbaum brings in hope and love and tries to offer some constructive suggestions for moving forward. There are no simple solutions. Simplifying emotions and hatred will prevail until people interact with those with whom they disagree and find out that they are human too and worthy of concern and respect. This is not a matter of arguing (or yelling) one’s way out of political disagreements but instead treating people with whom there are disagreements as worthy of the respect that one expects as a matter of course. The problems spurring troubling political emotions are real and persistent. Politics will not get better until enough people become convinced that better political life if worth the time and effort needed for improvements to happen. Nussbaum brings in history in her account to show how despite current conflicts, there have been difficult political environments in the US before and that things may not be as bad as social media suggest. The world may not be on the brink of destruction. Perhaps things might improve with a little bit more constructive effort. Nussbaum’s books are always thoughtful and this one is no exception. It is a quick read and well worth the effort.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Nussbaum is obviously a great thinker, but this book seemed an unfocused mishmash to me. I didn’t like the way she combined analytic psychiatric ideas with philosophy. There were definitely provocative and interesting ideas in there but I didn’t think the book as a whole was well done.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    As I work my way through the collected works of Martha Nussbaum I am always impressed by her ability to turn out works of great erudition and examination at such an incredible pace. This book, however, is not quite what it purports to be. Though likely a great introduction to many of Nussbaum's concepts for those unfamiliar with her work, frequent readers and admirers will likely have heard much of this before, and be disappointed that politics is never really examined or connected to the perspi As I work my way through the collected works of Martha Nussbaum I am always impressed by her ability to turn out works of great erudition and examination at such an incredible pace. This book, however, is not quite what it purports to be. Though likely a great introduction to many of Nussbaum's concepts for those unfamiliar with her work, frequent readers and admirers will likely have heard much of this before, and be disappointed that politics is never really examined or connected to the perspicacious dealings with emotions that form the start of the book. The insidious nature of fear and its manifestations in our evermore hostile arenas of discourse is a subject which nearly everyone of every political stripe acknowledges, though none seem too keen on any work in solving this problem. Thus, much of the material with which Nussbaum opens this work is a quick and lucid outline that shows the many different types of fear, the connection between fear and forms of anger, and how prejudice and bigotry have roots in very primal notions of disgust. This complicated web of emotions is delivered with great clarity though as many have noted, these analyses of hers have already appeared in several earlier works. The main issue with this book is that there is very little political analysis at all. The connection (if there is one) between the emotional examination described above and the actual workings of our political systems is never made, at least here. As a result the discussion of hope at the end of the work sounds like deliberate naiveté and the single policy suggestion she gives in the span of less than a page at the end of the book seems whimsical and deliberately unsupported, even though I happen to agree with it. While there is much to enjoy in this book, it really feels like it could have been a final chapter/section in her previous, and brilliant, work, "Anger and Forgiveness," as it uses many of the same examples (from Ghandi, Mandela, and King), puts forth very few genuinely new ideas regarding the human side of this issue, and never actually attempts to generate or even adumbrate political discussion/examination.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I always welcomed the opportunity to introduce my students to great ideas and great thinkers. The works of Martha Nussbaum have always been sterling examples of both. I was anticipating (as a child anticipates Christmas) her latest work since learning of the working title, Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis, a few months ago. I believed it would both salve and inspire. Unfortunately, it does neither. It would be simply a disappointment if that is all it fails to do, bu I always welcomed the opportunity to introduce my students to great ideas and great thinkers. The works of Martha Nussbaum have always been sterling examples of both. I was anticipating (as a child anticipates Christmas) her latest work since learning of the working title, Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis, a few months ago. I believed it would both salve and inspire. Unfortunately, it does neither. It would be simply a disappointment if that is all it fails to do, but she does something in this text and in her promoting of the book (I have watched her discussing the book on PBS Newhour and on BookTV) that she has never done before—she attacks her students who fervently oppose T***p and his agenda with the same vigor that she addresses T***p advocates. Nussbaum claims both sides are motivated by unwarranted and irrational fears. Not so. The current political crisis is not the result of the entire country panicking. One side, not both sides, is subject to: “Amorphous fear generated in a climate of ignorance and fed by imprecise and alarmist rhetoric, [which] is the enemy of any sane dialogue about our future” (59). She writes about fear: “The horrible darkness of early fear is always beneath the surface, easily awakened into nightmare by any destabilizing new development” (35). It is clear what the “destabilizing new development” is—T***p. He and his enablers are playing to the most atavistic and foul fears of his constituency: race, religion, sexual and gender anxiety, status, and terror of the future. Nussbaum fails to make the connection to one side of the political divide while observing that: “Our culture of fleeting celebrity and social media narcissism contributes to an envy culture. We need, instead, a culture of virtue and a conception of citizenship focused on virtue in the Hamilton sense: a high-minded yet realistic search for political solutions that unite” (161). My only explanation for Nussbaum not making the obvious connection is that she does not want to offend the side that this observation most readily describes. Just think of the past two administrations: Objectively, which one would you describe as being engaged in a “high-minded yet realistic search for political solutions that unite” and which one embraces a cult of celebrity, narcissism, and envy? Honestly, which one? If the answer is not clear enough consider this: “I call it the internal Furies that inhabit us all and that are not securely linked to real justice. The infants’ idea looks like a version of lex talionis: an eye for an eye, pain for pain. It is likely that this crude idea of proportional payback has an evolutionary origin. It is a leap to call this an idea of justice, and I think we should not make this leap” (71). I think we have all become too familiar with this infantile code of justice coming from our president and his enablers. Keeping in mind that most T***p supporters are affluent and secure, consider the following excerpt: “Lucretius was probably right to think that the fear of death ‘suffuses’ our lives with ‘the blackness of death,’ even if there is plenty of light and happiness around” (44). Of course, Trumpism did not happen overnight. Let’s remember that evangelicals supported him overwhelmingly (+80%). Which makes the following assertion pertinent to our political crisis: “Emotions can destabilize a community and fragment it, or they can produce better cooperation and more energetic striving toward justice. Emotions are not hardwired from birth, but are shaped in countless ways by social contexts and norms” (12). Nussbaum claims that: “Hope is the opposite of fear” (211). But is it? Actually (here I will use one of Nussbaum’s own citations): The Greeks and Romans said that hope was the “flip side of fear”. Both involve evaluating an outcome as very important, both involve great uncertainty about the outcome, and both involve a good measure of passivity or lack of control. They therefore did not like hope, pleasant though they granted it was: hope betrays a mind too dependent on fortune. ‘You will cease to fear, if you cease to hope,’ writes Seneca. ‘Both belong to a soul that is hanging in suspense, to a soul that is made anxious by concern with the future’" (Moral Epistles, 5.7-80) (204). I found Nussbaum’s assertion that “hope is the opposite of fear” peculiar in light of Seneca’s elucidation of the concept. When I think of the concept of “flip side” I think of two sides of the same coin—not opposites. And, it seems Seneca is of the same opinion. Interestingly, I recently read John Fea’s Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Trump (review coming soon) and he has an entire section asserting the same concept—that hope is the opposite of fear. Neither author mentioned the other in their texts. Hope is a fine thing as long as it doesn’t inhibit action. Nussbaum concludes with some words of wisdom and caution from Cicero. Cicero “records in his letters his profound upset and grief about what he sees happening to the Roman Republic. The life of detachment is ‘easier and safer.’ All the same, Cicero says, such people are guilty of what might be called ‘passive injustice’: the injustice that consists in not energetically enough pursuing justice, even when that is very difficult. They also lack in generosity and greatness of spirit” (244). The problem is Nussbaum is calling on the victims of the political crisis to refrain from vigorously opposing policies and actions that have already taken health care away from over a million people, denied citizens their civil rights, traumatized children, exacerbated racial prejudice and religious animosities, undermined our democratic institutions and values, increased wealth and income inequality, promoted unequal educational opportunities, abrogated indigenous people’s right to their land, opened public lands to exploitation, undermined US relations with our historic allies, abetted foreign interference in our democracy, . . . etc. Again, the problem is not that those who are desperately trying to save lives, end suffering and humiliation, and preserve our democracy are not civil enough—the problem is that too many are, as Cicero writes of his fellow citizens, guilty of passive injustice. Nussbaum’s book simply fails to inspire action or comfort those discomforted by the current political crisis. For inspiration and direction please review Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach to justice on pages 236-9 (or Google it!).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Ginsberg

    Using a blend of Ancient Greek philosophy and theories of psychology and neuroscience, Martha Nussbaum lays the case for the eternal dilemma of human “nature”, power seeking, giving up some of your will for the sake of the community, the origins and historic uses of fear by despots and how we might escape the cycle of primitive reactions and attempt to contribute to escape the “errors” of fear and anger.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brendan Shea

    Nussbaum is one of the relatively few bona fide philosophers (i.e., not popularizers of philosophy, but people who actually make contributions to the field) I feel safe recommending to non-experts. A few thoughts: 1. While the book was, by Nussbaum's own account, inspired by the election of Trump (and it includes a number of Trumpian examples), it's not really *about* Trump. Instead, it's an analysis of the emotion of fear, and the negative effects that this emotion can have in democratic societi Nussbaum is one of the relatively few bona fide philosophers (i.e., not popularizers of philosophy, but people who actually make contributions to the field) I feel safe recommending to non-experts. A few thoughts: 1. While the book was, by Nussbaum's own account, inspired by the election of Trump (and it includes a number of Trumpian examples), it's not really *about* Trump. Instead, it's an analysis of the emotion of fear, and the negative effects that this emotion can have in democratic societies. Nussbaum clearly believes that fear plays a role in right-wing populism (and in particular in the way it reacts to immigrants, women, etc.), but she doesn't think it's negative effects are limited to conservatives (and the book begins with the idea that liberals' fearful response to Trump voters may be part of the problem). 2. With some notable exceptions, Nussbaum's examples are generally *not* drawn from contemporary politics, but instead from a variety of areas in which she has particular expertise: classical Greece/Rome, the history of psychoanalysis, the early American Republic (especially as depicted in Hamilton, the musical), and even her own life. The book is well-written, but the examples are unapologetically those of an elite academic trained in the liberal arts. I found this to a refreshing change from the narrow focus of many "political" books, though I also suspect this might turn off some readers. (And I think the reaction of these readers is part of the problem that Nussbaum is concerned about.) 3. I generally agree with Nussbaum's analysis here (though I'm probably just as prone to political fear as anyone else), and I actually think she provides a pretty convincing argument for her view. That being said, there are plenty of things in here which don't fit well with the way many/most politically engaged people on the left (and the right) want to approach political conflict (and, in fact, on Nussbaum's analysis, indulging the sort of fear/rage that makes up a lot of contemporary political discourse is morally questionable). While reading this book, I often had the thought "Wow, there are some people who are really going to hate this analysis (and who frankly are going to dismiss it out of hand since it doesn't use their preferred language/conceptual framework)." 4. Nussbaum's positive proposals near the end--required service for young people, a refocusing of life-long education on liberal arts, an expanded role for poetry in our personal lives--seem promising (if politically untenable, at least right now).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    I got ~2/3 through this and gave up. I'm not sure what idea to draw here, aside from a reminder that much of our political motivations come from a position of fear and insecurity, and that overcoming these feelings through compassion could result in more political compromise. The "Monarchy" idea is due to fear being a very selfish emotion. There is some cool detail on Aeschylus's Eumenides, and an explanation for how the furies changed role at the conclusion of the play are an apt metaphor for ho I got ~2/3 through this and gave up. I'm not sure what idea to draw here, aside from a reminder that much of our political motivations come from a position of fear and insecurity, and that overcoming these feelings through compassion could result in more political compromise. The "Monarchy" idea is due to fear being a very selfish emotion. There is some cool detail on Aeschylus's Eumenides, and an explanation for how the furies changed role at the conclusion of the play are an apt metaphor for how society harnesses our emotions to drive legislation. The other examples (MLK, etc) were less intersting.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    Globalization leads to powerlessness among the masses. The current state is paranoia among the fear mongers. Fear is often rooted amid anger. Powerlessness leads to hopelessness and more blame and shame. The fear that is evident is being shown on both sides of the political aisles. So what now? How do we heal as a nation? How can we correct the wrongs and make them right? This book was very basic and bland for my tastes but perhaps you'll enjoy it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Womack

    A fine view on the resistance necessary to push back at fear’s aim to dominate and control and manipulate the self as an engaged public citizen. She relates fear to disgust, envy, and anger, and offers a balanced view of hope as that emotion which, if practiced, can free the heart and mind to persevere in the pursuit of the just and the good.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kalle Videnoja

    Nussbaum argues appealingly that fear is detrimental to democratic culture. In spite of the current political situation she makes a case for hope saying this is actually a time when hope and work can accomplish a great deal of good.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brent Fernandez

    Good book for our era of fear-based politics. My favorite part was the last chapter on Hope, Love, and Vision.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Madimadi

    The majority of the book is dedicated to explaining the philosophical backdrop of human emotions in relation to politics throughout history. While her analysis of this topic is fascinating, I often felt a generational divide - especially in her conclusions. Ultimately, her (very) brief "solution" for our political crisis felt extremely removed from reality. Also, my god, do not listen to the audiobook. It's a total slog, and does not do her writing justice at all. (3/5)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ailith Twinning

    What to say - that when your denunciation of hate and fear accommodates the likes of Goldwater and Bush, you clearly have some work left to do? That individualistic ethics as political stances are inherently daft as they ignore the core reality of politics as an interpersonal sphere with impersonal actors? That supporting 'disadvantaged groups' rhetorically, and overtly refusing to address the actual systems of oppression is hypocritical bullshit? That "the politics of envy" is a lazy misdirecti What to say - that when your denunciation of hate and fear accommodates the likes of Goldwater and Bush, you clearly have some work left to do? That individualistic ethics as political stances are inherently daft as they ignore the core reality of politics as an interpersonal sphere with impersonal actors? That supporting 'disadvantaged groups' rhetorically, and overtly refusing to address the actual systems of oppression is hypocritical bullshit? That "the politics of envy" is a lazy misdirection from the actual moral concern "Can the existence of a billionaire be both justified and good?" That this is a hell of a lot of privileged, elite and elitist bullshit that almost makes we want to pull out the word bourgeois? That this is just self-indulgent masturbation? That the words you're looking for in your own context, Nussbaum, are horror and dread? Frankly, what I really want to say here are all non-verbal expressions - drag my hand down my face, sigh, look up, roll my eyes, and throw the book in the bin. You construct your castles in the air about the inherent fear that sticks with people from being a helpless, tyrannical, infant. The rest of us have work to do.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    In this interesting book, Ms. Nussbaum considers the most primitive of our emotions – fear and notes its many poisonous byproducts. She notes that it is an emotion – a reactive instinct, really – that we share with all other life forms. Its source is found in the amygdala, a part of the brain that we share with all vertebrates, and which triggers our survival instincts – fight or flight – when we experience fear. “Fear,” she says, “goes straight back to the reptilian brain.” The reason why right In this interesting book, Ms. Nussbaum considers the most primitive of our emotions – fear and notes its many poisonous byproducts. She notes that it is an emotion – a reactive instinct, really – that we share with all other life forms. Its source is found in the amygdala, a part of the brain that we share with all vertebrates, and which triggers our survival instincts – fight or flight – when we experience fear. “Fear,” she says, “goes straight back to the reptilian brain.” The reason why right-wing politicians – and outright demagogues like Trump – always seek to incite and stoke fear is because of the effect it has. Nusbaum writes, “Fear is not just primitive, it is also asocial. When we feel compassion, we are turned outward; we think of what is happening to others and what is causing it.” It is “intensely narcissistic,” driving out all thoughts of others. It causes us to shrink inwards, becoming more defensive and suspicious of others. Therefore, she calls fear “the emotion of a monarch, who cares about nothing and nobody else.” We are born with the capacity to fear and it is, indeed, probably the first emotion a newborn experiences. Infants are aware that they are truly helpless, unable to care for themselves. They can only wail when they are hungry, thirsty, wet, or upset. Yet, most of us surmount those early fears (although, she points out, we can never banish the emotion for it is central to our survival instincts). How does this happen? She cites the work of psychologist Donald Winnicott who “invented a concept for what children need, if concern for others is to grow and flourish. He called these conditions the ‘facilitating environment.’” The family, he wrote, “must have a core of basic loving stability…. It must be free from sadism and child abuse…. The facilitating environment has economic and social preconditions as well: there must be basic freedom from violence and chaos, from fears of ethnic persecution and terror; there must be enough to eat and basic health care.” If a family lacks these things, children are likely to be emotionally stinted by fear, something that will haunt them all their lives. It is also true that nations need a “facilitating environment” in which their citizens can feel safe, empowered, and optimistic. This is the kind of atmosphere that allows for cooperation, trust, and mutually aided accomplishments. But when societies, just like failed families, are wracked by economic worries, fractured families, lost careers, and ruined hopes, the result is an environment in which all the positive things that allow a society to flourish are undermined by fear, doubt, and anger. So, What Can Be Done? We have arrived at our current sorry state of civic and political life as a result of policies intentionally chosen that have dramatically tilted the playing field towards the uppermost 1%. This, coupled with the politics of deceit and evasion made necessary by these policies, has seriously weakened the economic and psychological standing of millions of our fellow citizens and has, as a predictable byproduct, produced a climate of anxiety, fear, resentment, and outrage. If we are to blunt this downward spiral we must revert to the kind of policies and politics of the decades that followed World War II, a period of diminished wealth disparity and widespread prosperity. Nussbaum, consistent with her vision that the “flip-side” of fear is love, says that it is only when most people have adequate access to the necessities of life – and these include FDR’s call for a “second bill of rights” that embraces the goal of a democratic economy as well as what she calls the capabilities necessary if we are to flourish (and to flourish is the idea behind what Thomas Jefferson called the right to the pursuit of happiness). She recalls FDR’s assertion that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and links this with FDR’s vision of a society in which all have the right to a well-paying job, to a decent home, to adequate health care and, as far as possible, to be free from the fears that accompany old age, sickness, accident and unemployment. She concurs, for those conditions reduce the likelihood of fear, allowing instead for the more inclusive atmosphere of love, respect, tolerance, and cooperation. Yes, the road is certainly an uphill one, certain to be blocked at every point by those who have everything to lose from changing the way things now work but, Nussbaum reminds us, we nonetheless must have hope. Hope, she reminds us, has this in common with fear: significant powerlessness. In fear, such powerlessness leads to despair, withdrawal, resentment, and anger, all of which shrink us. But if, even though we lack the power by ourselves to change anything, we choose hope, then that directs our gaze outwards in a search for allies, for possibilities, for a livable future. She cites Immanuel Kant’s observation that hope was a “practical postulate,” that is, an attitude that we take on without proof that a better outcome will occur because hope can enable a greater likelihood of a better outcome. Fear and despair enable nothing. There is wisdom here: I am not “in control,” but together we can act to bring about change. Time to get started!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lee

    I read this pretty quickly. Dr. Nussbaum clearly makes a case for the evils of fear, and its effects on multiple other emotions, and their potential for damage to our relationships and the totality of the body politic that I found both cogent and plausible. I also felt a bit of a so what? Upon finishing the book. The text isn't just platitudes; I disagree with that common response among those giving negative reviews here, but its truths seem far more descriptive than prescriptive or analytical. I read this pretty quickly. Dr. Nussbaum clearly makes a case for the evils of fear, and its effects on multiple other emotions, and their potential for damage to our relationships and the totality of the body politic that I found both cogent and plausible. I also felt a bit of a so what? Upon finishing the book. The text isn't just platitudes; I disagree with that common response among those giving negative reviews here, but its truths seem far more descriptive than prescriptive or analytical. However, it does tend toward the inactive stereotype of philosophical work in that its analysis focuses primarily on definition and description. I feel like I have a deeper understanding of why and how fear is bad, I'm even convinced that its impact is perhaps greater and more widespread than I thought. But I picked up the book because I was already convinced that fear was acting as a toxin that is poisoning our government/politics. I guess I was hoping for a more actively involved text. There are a few specific examples from our current "Political Crisis," but the examples are more often pulled from ancient Rome and Greece or even from literature, which makes it all feel very distanced from the debates one sees raging in the public sphere. I agree with her that retributive anger is less-productive, but I'd have liked to see quite a bit more about how formulation of "transition-anger" is more than an airy ideal and can be effectively rediscovered and used. It kind of sounds like we should all hope another Dr. King, Gandhi, or Mandela comes along so we can follow them. I found a number of things here interesting, and all of the writing itself and Nussbaum's formulations were at least new to me because I'd never read anything she's written before, and most of them I found intelligent and insightful. That said, the parts that spoke to me most spoke to me personally as I thought about small behaviors in my personal life that are wholly or partially motivated by fear and how I might go about trying to change them. So the best parts of the book for me involved thinking about long term self-improvement on a very personal scale. This feels a bit like weak tea in the context of the titular political crisis--which if not changed will have had some really awful consequences for a lot of people long before enough of us make the kind of small personal changes that I felt prompted toward after reading to reach a critical mass that changes society. That's fine as a self-help text, as a personal solution, but it's disappointing as a way of addressing larger, societal problems.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Seth the Zest

    On the Monarchy of Fear I loved most of this book. And then the end came around and it seemed tentative. I believe that was partially intended but many of the prescriptions seemed bland. It was like something out of a large committee that didn’t want to offend anyone. There are places for those statements of course. But they’re usually not good rallying cries. I’d stumbled onto this book when my wife and I heard Steve Almond talk at the Twin Cities Book Festival. I last heard him speak ten year On the Monarchy of Fear I loved most of this book. And then the end came around and it seemed tentative. I believe that was partially intended but many of the prescriptions seemed bland. It was like something out of a large committee that didn’t want to offend anyone. There are places for those statements of course. But they’re usually not good rallying cries. I’d stumbled onto this book when my wife and I heard Steve Almond talk at the Twin Cities Book Festival. I last heard him speak ten years ago when I was in graduate school. Back then, he had written a bit about politics and mentioned his appearance on Sean Hannity’s show. The clip is still out there. Essentially Mr. Almond quit his teaching job when his university invited Condeleeza Rice to give the commencement address at graduation. How much milder does her villainy seem now. That’s unfair, somewhat. Her brand of dishonesty was very different than what currently passes muster. The comparison anguishes me. The Monarchy of Fear explains why we’re having such visceral reactions to current events. The book has great insight, though not all of it rung true for me. When I finished the book, I remembered liking it but not being affected. On November 7th, I had a chance to talk politics with someone for the first time in a while. I was having coffee with a former co-worker and she started talking about the election. I looked up results and confirmed that the House of Representatives had changed majorities but the Senate had not. This wasn’t really a surprise, even if I wish the current senate Majority Leader would resign. It’s hard for me to not wish more things on Mr. McConnell because he’s frankly very good at appeasing his base and twisting long-standing senate rules to his advantage. His judicial appointments are unnerving at all levels. And his obstructionism is masterful, albeit underhanded. His predecessors have never, to the best of my knowledge, matched his skulduggery. This outrages me. Frankly, I’d wanted bad things to happen to him. But Ms. Nussbaum reminded me that envy is poisonous. And in fact, I am jealous that he’s been able to manipulate Congress so well for so long without apparent repercussion. But envying his machinations causes me dark thoughts. I don’t think these are unique to me or to one side of the political spectrum. But I can see how envy taints my understanding. McConnell may believe he’s doing things for the right reasons. I think that’s unlikely but it’s possible. But envy makes me want bad things to happen to him. It’s a call for a perverted sense of justice. Will I feel better if bad things happen to him? Perhaps a little. That’s schadenfreude. But wanting him to suffer isn’t just and it won’t undo anything. Monarchy of Fear helped me examine the feelings and beliefs that contributed to my frustration. I’m grateful for that. It’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in my own thinking that I don’t examine my beliefs. That leaves room for heuristics or logical shortcuts. I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s pretty neutral politically, though I could see some people complaining about bias.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    I always like reading Martha Nussbaum, but I wasn't very satisfied with the message of this book. The idea of the book is fairly clear: take Nussbaum's analytical framework for thinking about the emotions, which she developed in "Upheavals of Thought" and subsequent books, and apply it to our current political situation. She tries to walk a fine line in the book, making clear how the ideas are relevant to, for example, Donald Trump's misogynist statements, without making it a "Trump book" or see I always like reading Martha Nussbaum, but I wasn't very satisfied with the message of this book. The idea of the book is fairly clear: take Nussbaum's analytical framework for thinking about the emotions, which she developed in "Upheavals of Thought" and subsequent books, and apply it to our current political situation. She tries to walk a fine line in the book, making clear how the ideas are relevant to, for example, Donald Trump's misogynist statements, without making it a "Trump book" or seeming "too political." Perhaps it's my own political leanings coming through, but I felt Nussbaum went too far in trying to appear "evenhanded." She takes pains to talk about shortcomings on both the right and the left, talking for example about demonization of immigrants and demonization of bankers. I just think this is a false equivalence. There's a clear moral distinction, in my mind, between "punching down" and "punching up." I also was disappointed that Nussbaum didn't talk much about fear, anger, envy, and disgust in the context of organizations trying to influence elections via Facebook and other social media. These are basically a laboratory for weaponizing predictable human emotional responses, and would seem like a very relevant subject for philosophical analysis. Most of the content was fairly familiar to me from "Anger and Forgiveness," but there was one analytical perspective in particular that seemed new and that I appreciated. In biology there is a dictum that says "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny;" that is, the development of an embryonic creature resembles the evolution of its species. Nussbaum makes a similar connection between the emotional development of individual humans and the political development of societies. Her title draws a connection between the tyrannical infant and authoritarian societies. Both, she says, are driven to be domineering by a combination of fear of deprivation and a lack of understanding others as autonomously valuable individuals. The development of a mature adult, who understands the need to balance her desires with those of others around her, resembles the development of a democratic government, which recognizes that all people have autonomous dignity and should have a say in the circumstances of their own lives. I really like this analogy and have thought about it a lot since finishing the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Franz

    Nussbaum explores the different kinds of fears generated by Donald Trump and others of his ilk. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of philosophy and literature, especially of the ancient Greeks and Romans, she analyzes how leaders with authoritarian tendencies exploit fears surrounding misogyny, blame, and disgust to create tribal agreements that demonize differences of gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion. She also references recent research in the psychological literature to help exp Nussbaum explores the different kinds of fears generated by Donald Trump and others of his ilk. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of philosophy and literature, especially of the ancient Greeks and Romans, she analyzes how leaders with authoritarian tendencies exploit fears surrounding misogyny, blame, and disgust to create tribal agreements that demonize differences of gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion. She also references recent research in the psychological literature to help explain how these biased fears arise and then exploited by manipulative and unprincipled leaders. Hers is not a shallow exploration of emotions; she delves deeply into the emotion of fear and how it kills hope. That one way to counter the terrible and harmful influence of fear is to replace it with hope and respect for others. Only in this way can we rescue our democracy. Here she insists on Kant's imperative that each person should be should be treated with respect, that their dignity and inherent value is prior to any instrumental function that they might serve. Her examples of hope and respect, indeed love, for others are Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela. They always spoke the language of hope and love, never the language of fear, anger, or revenge. Because it wasn't part of her subject matter, the issues surrounding our present moment does not just concern the damaging emotion of fear. Also relevant is how power should be shared and distributed. For Trump and his followers, it isn't enough to campaign to win elections. The election system must be manipulated so that their opponents have little or no chance of winning elections. While fear helps to produce the circumstances that allows for gerrymandering and suppression of voters' rights, the increase of hope, which may be necessary, certainly won't be sufficient to bring about a fairer electoral system. Similarly, the efforts of Vladimir Putin and the Russians to disrupt, delegitimize, and sow distrust with American democracy also requires more that hope to stop the undermining of elections. There also has to be efforts to subvert those efforts. But this is not the book Nussbaum intended to write. Instead she offers a blueprint for how to escape the negative feedback loop in which many of us are trapped.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephan Renkens

    The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis is the kind of "philosophy" book that I like: clear language, good structure, consistent message. Martha C. Nussbaum identifies fear as the root cause of the current political crisis (and the author primarily talks here about the situation in the United States, and I would add that the public climate in Europe has similar tendencies). Fear, called by Martha C. Nussbaum a monarchical, and narcissistic emotion, manifests itself as a The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis is the kind of "philosophy" book that I like: clear language, good structure, consistent message. Martha C. Nussbaum identifies fear as the root cause of the current political crisis (and the author primarily talks here about the situation in the United States, and I would add that the public climate in Europe has similar tendencies). Fear, called by Martha C. Nussbaum a monarchical, and narcissistic emotion, manifests itself as anger, disgust and envy. The author puts against fear its opposite and positive emotion: hope, which goes hand in hand with faith and love. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Ghandi are presented as champions of this positive attitude. The author gives many examples from classical Greek and Roman tradition, like Socrates, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius and Cicero. While Martha C. Nussbaum frequently mentions some very recent events, she carefully avoids to put the current presidency of Trump in the center of her discourse. Also she rightfully argues that "the political" left is struggling with similar manifestations of fear. I read the book while following the impeachment hearings in Washington. The deep polarization, the non-communication, the mutual disgust, the disrespect for facts and truth, the talking and not listening, it is making me very sad. So is Brexit and the atmosphere of crisis in the European, so is the immigration debate in Europe, so are the arguments on climate change. The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis is a good antidote against the despair it might lead to.

  24. 5 out of 5

    christina

    I have always respected and enjoyed reading much of Martha Nussbaums' work but like many others, was disappointed in her arguments for this particular book because I am convinced it was written to be accessible at the expense of being critical. There are some compelling ideas she brings up, such as her connection to the first and primary emotions humans feel is fear and the affiliations we make as babies to those fears indicate how we will respond to the world. Equally, how fear translates into a I have always respected and enjoyed reading much of Martha Nussbaums' work but like many others, was disappointed in her arguments for this particular book because I am convinced it was written to be accessible at the expense of being critical. There are some compelling ideas she brings up, such as her connection to the first and primary emotions humans feel is fear and the affiliations we make as babies to those fears indicate how we will respond to the world. Equally, how fear translates into anger and how both of this is monarchical -- selfishly motivated. While not entirely profound, it was an interesting way to begin a thesis to how a primary feeling and its casual effects on how a human being, who then must navigate through this world with that primary feeling. I also appreciate that she tries to apply a more philosophical argumentative structure -- getting to the root and defining the premise before tracing the variant forms of the definition to arrive at the current construction of the word defined -- but the problem lies within the evidence she evinces. I understand the want to attract a higher readership or to be more accessible to your intended audience, but I don't think it's argumentatively sound to base an entire argument on a musical; nor do I believe a tenuous relationship between disgust of the body translates to a disgust in others; or that by piggy-backing on the an as-yet and very ill-defined notion of disgust to the leap in envy suffices to explain fear properly. To me, it just seems the times where I expected Nussbaum to be more insightful, to be more thorough in her observations and her definitions, she uses her rhetoric instead to side-step the harder theories and thought processes to make her arguments more substantial, which lends her argument with less credibility. Again, I believe the faults of this book is directly related to the kind of readership she was trying to appeal to and less to do with her arguments themselves -- they just needed more sussing out. However, for a writer to claim of practical hope, it's a shame that she couldn't provide that practical hope for her readers by providing some clear, evidentiary analysis of the problems we currently face today.

  25. 4 out of 5

    R.C.

    Another reviewer said that this would be a great book if you had never read any of Nussbaum's work before and wanted a post-2016 pick-me-up. As I am exactly that sort of reader, I found this to be a very good, but not great, book. Overall, this is very much a philosophy book about fear, us-vs-them, and all their attendant emotions written clearly and well for a lay audience. Even though my philosophical reading background is thin, I got what she was saying, and it made sense. Like much philosophy Another reviewer said that this would be a great book if you had never read any of Nussbaum's work before and wanted a post-2016 pick-me-up. As I am exactly that sort of reader, I found this to be a very good, but not great, book. Overall, this is very much a philosophy book about fear, us-vs-them, and all their attendant emotions written clearly and well for a lay audience. Even though my philosophical reading background is thin, I got what she was saying, and it made sense. Like much philosophy, it was in places eye-opening to realize that yes, of course I think I knew that, but wow, no one had ever dragged it into the light and SAID it like that. That was most of what I wanted out of this book, and what I most enjoyed. The author's slant is very apologetically anti-Trump, both in her own personal views that she shares and in the hot-button topics that she covers. One thing that keeps the book somewhat immune from current events is how the author uses many ancient history examples rather than current. Her reasoning is that by using examples that are not so fresh and raw, she'll avoid some of the knee-jerk responses in the reader. I think that this works ok, though really, this book is probably preaching to the choir in the first place. Also, in illustrating her points, she uses racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. examples that are quite obviously meant to point these qualities out in the current Administration, but her philosophical treatment can be used as a mirror for any person, in any situation where they find themselves afraid, disgusted, envious, hateful, or angry. The left doesn't completely escape criticism in this book--which only seems fair, as neither side is made up of saints--though they get much less of the splatter than the right. I did get the sense that (as other readers have noted) this book might contain a lot of retread ideas for this author. She footnotes her other works extensively, and this book seems to mostly be a reframing of her more generalized work to a specific topic. Still, for a reader new to her, and one looking for a reminder of why we humans do this thing that we're doing, this is a good primer.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Quist

    Martha C. Nussbaum a scholar, humanist and prolific author, is currently the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Philosophy department and the Law school of the University of Chicago. She has won many awards for her work most recently the Berggruen Prize which is considered the Nobel prize for philosophy. In her most recent (2018) work: "The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis" she explores the anatomy of fear and its natural Martha C. Nussbaum a scholar, humanist and prolific author, is currently the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Philosophy department and the Law school of the University of Chicago. She has won many awards for her work most recently the Berggruen Prize which is considered the Nobel prize for philosophy. In her most recent (2018) work: "The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis" she explores the anatomy of fear and its natural descendents: retributive anger, disgust, and envy. With the background of the polarized and caustic state of US politics she draws on many sources from the poets and philosophers of classical Athens to the musical Hamilton to shine ancient light and wisdom on our modern challenges. Her purpose is not only to critique but also to inform and provide a path forward. As an example of one of the the worst aspects of fear she documents the history and current state of both sexism and misogyny in American culture. Finally she reflects on how citizens of democracy can repel fear and all its troubling manifestations by embracing hope. Several practical examples of the use of the arts and volunteer service are recommended in order to get people on opposite sides of the divide to see and talk to each other. All of this is to combat the natural demonization of the other side which stems from living in a our own bubbles or echo chambers. Of interest to me was her positive remarks about the prominent New Testament ethics and mindset as taught by Paul that is the qualities of faith and love to augment hope. I recommend this well written work for those interested in being part of the solution to our present political and social divisions. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018, ix + 249pp., ISBN: 978-1501172496

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sonali

    An introduction to Martha Nussbaum’s work on the philosophy of emotions. Her analysis of disgust-pollution-purity is interesting, and she provides examples of how these emotions work to subordinate and exclude entire groups from the social fabric. Fear too is corrosive to democracy and in the current political era, fuelled by the insecurities and uncertainties created by a retreating welfare state, automation and globalisation. This fear, so primal to humans, is monarchical - it urges us to seek An introduction to Martha Nussbaum’s work on the philosophy of emotions. Her analysis of disgust-pollution-purity is interesting, and she provides examples of how these emotions work to subordinate and exclude entire groups from the social fabric. Fear too is corrosive to democracy and in the current political era, fuelled by the insecurities and uncertainties created by a retreating welfare state, automation and globalisation. This fear, so primal to humans, is monarchical - it urges us to seek control of others, locate blame and run toward protection provided by ‘strong’ leaders. She argues against retributive anger as well, because it prevents future cooperation and constructive work. Here, anger serves democracy only when it is expressed as outrage against injustice and mobilises people for a cause but not beyond that. I think this is tricky territory, since vulnerable groups are often vilified for their anger (like the BLM movement) and vocal women labelled as ‘angry’ in order to silence them. She also doesn’t fully address power in her book, and how these emotions are responses to it. For example, she considers the left’s envy and anger toward the banking elite as hindering future cooperation but this presumes that the powerful want to cooperate in destabilising the status quo in the first place. Her final message is to counter fear with hope - hope that is built and sustained through art and the humanities, inclusive education and housing, community service and faith. In all, this is an informative read that should make us conscious of the deliberate uses of emotions for political ends.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Fredrickson

    I expected more and/or different. Nussbaum spends a lot of energy in this book discussing how fear is an omnipresent force in our lives from birth on, and how fear relates to psychological forces such as anger, envy and disgust. She is quite erudite, and supplies her discussion from numerous cultural vantage points. She also brings in a discussion of sexism and misogyny, though I found the distinctions she made between these two somewhat difficult to follow. The reason for the low rating is that I expected more and/or different. Nussbaum spends a lot of energy in this book discussing how fear is an omnipresent force in our lives from birth on, and how fear relates to psychological forces such as anger, envy and disgust. She is quite erudite, and supplies her discussion from numerous cultural vantage points. She also brings in a discussion of sexism and misogyny, though I found the distinctions she made between these two somewhat difficult to follow. The reason for the low rating is that the book attempts to end on a positive note, but the quality of the text surrounding the notion of 'hope' feels loose and uncompelling compared to the text on the dynamics of fear and anger. Hope is envisioned as a compensatory force against fear, but this is very nebulous with respect to any efficacy that it might have. It also seemed to me while reading that Nussbaum may equate hope with (her religious) faith, but if so, she walks this line very carefully. The distinction that I make between faith and hope is an interesting one in light of Nussbaum's text: hope may be unfounded and without any particular impact (she addresses this in the book), while faith in human nature or some religious system, may perforce have a positive impact on one's life even if it does not affect others. In spite of the book's subtitle, there is actually very little discussion on the uses of fear by contemporary political parties. Nussbaum does not demonize the Right in this book - she offers criticism of the Left as well. Having said this, it is clear that the bulk of her concern is probably centered around the strategic use of fear by the Right.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tammam Aloudat

    Part of this book is incredibly interesting and relevant, the discussion of fear and subsequent emotions such as anger and disgust and how they interact with social and political behaviour is timely and should be understood. It builds on a long interest of Nussbaum in the topic and previous extensive work. The weakness of the book is when she shifts from that analysis to the "solution" which is, to put it simply, to have hope instead of fear. To love and to have hope are certainly an admirable am Part of this book is incredibly interesting and relevant, the discussion of fear and subsequent emotions such as anger and disgust and how they interact with social and political behaviour is timely and should be understood. It builds on a long interest of Nussbaum in the topic and previous extensive work. The weakness of the book is when she shifts from that analysis to the "solution" which is, to put it simply, to have hope instead of fear. To love and to have hope are certainly an admirable ambition but it is no replacement for the real need for structural political solutions to the structural and political problems that threaten democracy and civility. The problem with this proposition is it almost says: "only if you, as an individual, had hope and love instead of fear, we would be fine", this absolves the state and the society at large from the burden of systematic solutions and puts the burdent on the individual. This is neither feasible nor fair. The other problem is that, in desparate attempt to be "fair and balanced", Nussbaum felt the need to criticise equally on both sides in the manner of the white supremacist racists are wrong, hateful, and angry but a lot on the left should be better as well... this repeated so many times to be accidental and it creates this fake neutrality that is potentially harmful. Finally, the last chapter is too self-help-like for my taste. However, the first two thirds of the book are definately important and worth the read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mmetevelis

    Nussbaum is a philosopher who can write for a general audience. After an interesting autobiographical essay and a reflection on the 2016 election she digs into her earlier work on explaining how emotional reactions to fear, anger, and disgust have led to the current political crisis in the modern west. After a chapter on sexism she engages in some steps forward that involve a renewed faith in the democratic process enhanced through dialogue, religion, the arts, public service and a new birth of Nussbaum is a philosopher who can write for a general audience. After an interesting autobiographical essay and a reflection on the 2016 election she digs into her earlier work on explaining how emotional reactions to fear, anger, and disgust have led to the current political crisis in the modern west. After a chapter on sexism she engages in some steps forward that involve a renewed faith in the democratic process enhanced through dialogue, religion, the arts, public service and a new birth of public spiritedness. The work is well organized in this way even though at times she is rapidly moving through very dense material. I found the book interesting and a pretty sterling statement of a kind of post-war JFKesque liberalism which looks to already existing institutions to be revitalized to answer many of the issues we face in fractious times. The book is more useful when viewed as a fairly well put together collection of occasional essays than a coherent diagnosis of our political ills or a specific direction to remedy them. But even in this format Nussbaum is still worth a read for the way she weaves together classical philosophy, psychology, and a very approachable idealism.

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