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About the book
  • Published: 19 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784707033
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

Nervous States

How Feeling Took Over the World


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A dazzlingly original analysis of the times we are living in by one of Britain’s most exciting thinkers

A dazzlingly original analysis of how emotions shape the times we are living in by one of Britain’s most exciting thinkers
‘A masterpiece’ New York Times
‘Insightful and well-written’ Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens

How have feelings come to shape the world around us? Why has politics become so fractious and warlike? What might the future hold?

In this bold and compelling exploration of our new political reality, William Davies reveals how feelings have come to reshape our world. Drawing on history, philosophy, psychology and economics, Nervous States is an essential guide to the turbulent times we are living through.

  • Pub date: 19 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784707033
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

William Davies

William Davies is a political economist and sociologist who teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work explores the history of ideas, especially the history of economics, and how this helps us understand the present. His writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, Guardian, Atlantic, New York Times, Washington Post and New Left Review. He is the author of The Happiness Industry: How the government & big business sold us wellbeing (Verso, 2015) and The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (Sage, 2014; reissued with a new introduction in 2016).


Praise for Nervous States

“[An] interdisciplinary masterpiece.”

Mark Green, New York Times

“If you read one book about contemporary politics this year, make it this one. William Davies is as acute and accurate on the shifts we are enduring as on the deep roots behind contemporary thinking (or not thinking, I should add).”

Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

“The roots of our current anxieties are traced in [Nervous States,] an absorbing book fizzing with ideas… Davies is a wonderfully alert and nimble guide and his absorbing and edgy book will help us feel our way to a better future. ”

Suzanne Moore, Observer

“Wide-ranging yet brilliantly astute… Davies is a wild and surprising thinker who also happens to be an elegant writer — a wonderful and eminently readable combination. Nervous States covers 400 years of intellectual history, technological innovation and economic development, seamlessly weaving in such disparate intellects as Carl von Clausewitz, Friedrich von Hayek and Hannah Arendt.”

Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“We should all read William Davies’s Nervous States, a concise, penetrating exploration of the role played by negative emotions in our recent politics and culture”

Johanna Thomas-Corr, Evening Standard, **Books of the Year**

“What makes Nervous States such a fascinating read... is that it is a slickly written and timely intervention in an era when feelings have undoubtedly become more powerful than facts.”

Ian O'Doherty, Irish Independent

“An insightful and well-written book that explores the deep roots of the current crisis of expertise. The scientific community has been founded on the basis of separating reason from feeling. But now science itself has exposed this separation as an untenable myth. So where do we go from here?”

Yuval Noah Harari

“A useful guide to our times… Nervous States makes a compelling case for paying more attention to the role of feelings, alongside that of reason, in modern life.”

Julian Baggini, Financial Times

“These are sparkling insights… [Nervous States] is an ambitious book with plenty to commend it.”

David Runciman, Guardian Weekly, Book of the Week

“[Davies] offers a penetrating analysis of 21st-century politics and culture… A fresh, astute examination of current events and urgent challenges.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An excavation of our age of anxiety, William Davies convincingly argues that declining trust in the authority of experts and the expanding mechanisms of disinformation have produced a world where emotions rule. From the connection between populism and bodily pain to the effects of Mark Zuckerberg’s “attention economy”, this book nimbly draws on the disparate threads of our current time.”

Wired, **Books of the Year**

“[An] alarming but excellent book… a thoughtful analysis.”

Ben Collyer, New Scientist

“A book that thinks seriously and deeply about our modern predicament.”

Steven Poole, Guardian, **Books of the Year**

“Illuminating about the frankly alarming condition of our politics, Nervous States describes how emotion took over from reason in contemporary populism”

Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard, **Books of the Year**

“Engrossing.”

Alan Ryan, Literary Review

“Brilliant.”

Matthew d'Ancona, Guardian

“Davies, a rising star in the world of political thought, has written a much-needed book that provides an original explanatory framework for our current predicament - Brexit and Trump included.”

Guardian, 50 of the Biggest Books to Look Out For in Autumn 2018

“William Davies brilliantly explains that we can no longer sensibly look for hope in ever more technological achievements, especially those that subjugate nature to our will. As our times slow down we have to confront our fears, our pain and our resentment. We have to redefine hope.”

Danny Dorling

“[Nervous States] does a great job of revealing fear’s capacity to mobilise people… [and serves] also as a stepping stone from which to approach the future.”

Lilly Markaki, LSE Review of Books

“[An] impressively wide-ranging and imaginative analysis gives us a deeper understanding of the gap between fact and popular perception.”

Paul Gordon, Times Literary Supplement

“Both compelling and creative.”

Hettie O'Brien, Prospect

“Wide-ranging and ambitious.”

David Nowell Smith, New Humanist

“Davies’s account is full of acute observations.”

Malcolm Bull, London Review of Books


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