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 full attention to the terrible political standoff tha has polarized America since the Trump election. Although today’s atmosphere is heavily marked by partisanship, divisive rhetoric, and the seeming total inability of two halves of the country to communicate with one another, Nussbaum focuses on what so many pollsters, journalists and pundits have overlooked. She sees a simple truth at the heart of the problem: the political is always emotional. Globalization, automation and the high costs of high education have produced feelings of utter powerlessness in millions of people in the U.S. Similar issues trouble European unity.
That sense of powerlessness and a pervasive underlying fear bubble into resentment and blame: blame of immigrants, blame of Muslims, blame of other races, blame of cultural elites. While this politics of blame played a hefty role in the election of Trump – and the vote for Brexit, Nussbaum argues that it can in fact be found on all sides of the political spectrum—confusingly intertwined, however, with reasonable arguments aiming at greater justice. She insists that retribution is always a bad response to fear, and she articulates a clear politics of constructive work and hope.