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

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  499 ratings  ·  90 reviews
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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by Simon Schuster
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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
Charles J
Aug 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
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!
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa, politics, trump, audiobook
83rd book for 2018.

Full of seemingly superficial platitudes that fails, despite it's title, to engage in the current political crisis.

Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Dan Graser
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Barbara Ginsberg
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Brendan Shea
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Fraser Kinnear
Jul 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
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
Donna Hines
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
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.
Paul Womack
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kalle Videnoja
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Brent Fernandez
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book for our era of fear-based politics. My favorite part was the last chapter on Hope, Love, and Vision.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
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)
Ailith Twinning
Aug 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018
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 ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Scott Lee
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
Seth the Zest
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
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
Nick Klagge
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Stephan Renkens
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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 ...more
May 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
John Fredrickson
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cultural, philosophy
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
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
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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Professor Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School. She is an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department, a Member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She is the founder and ...more

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