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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 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

In this age of emotional political conflict, there is less and less to agree upon. Experts are no longer respected as impartial; public debate is reduced to attack and counter-attack; the boundary between facts and propaganda seems to be dissolving. We live in a world not quite at war but nor exactly at peace.

How did things reach this point, and what can we do about it? In this enlightening, far-reaching and provocative book, William Davies explores how physical and emotional feeling came to reshape our world today, destabilising governments and placing us all on high-alert. Drawing on a 400-year history of scientific and political ideas, he shows how our sensations were once treated with suspicion, before being seized enthusiastically as a path to mass mobilisation in war.

As we enter a new technological and political era, this book reveals the origins of the nervous states in which we now live.

Reviews

[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

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Formats & editions

  • Nervous States
    William Davies

    Paperback

    9781784707033

    September 19, 2019

    Vintage

    320 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
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    • Books Kinokuniya
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    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781787330108

    September 15, 2018

    Jonathan Cape

    272 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Trade Paperback

    9781787330115

    September 15, 2018

    Jonathan Cape

    272 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au