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About the book
  • Published: 15 September 2018
  • ISBN: 9781787330108
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $35.00

Nervous States

How Feeling Took Over the World

A dazzlingly original analysis of our times by one of Britain's most exciting thinkers

**A Guardian and Evening Standard Book of the Year**
'An interdisciplinary masterpiece' New York Times

Why do we no longer trust experts, facts and statistics? Why has politics become so fractious and warlike? What caused the populist political upheavals of recent years? How can the history of ideas help us understand our present?

In this bold and far-reaching exploration of our new political landscape, William Davies reveals how feelings have come to reshape our world. Drawing deep on history, philosophy, psychology and economics, he shows how some of the fundamental assumptions that defined the modern world have dissolved. With advances in science and medicine, the division between mind and body is no longer so clear-cut. The spread of digital and military technology has left us not quite at war nor exactly at peace. In the murky new space between mind and body, between war and peace, lie nervous states: with all of us relying increasingly on feeling rather than fact.

In a book of profound insight and astonishing breadth, William Davies reveals the origins of this new political reality. Nervous States is a compelling and essential guide to the turbulent times we are living through.

  • Pub date: 15 September 2018
  • ISBN: 9781787330108
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $35.00

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 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

“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

“[An] interdisciplinary masterpiece.”

Mark Green, New York Times

“Engrossing... Davies is a lively writer.”

Alan Ryan, Literary Review

“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


Matthew d'Ancona, Guardian

“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

“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 [Nervous States] will help us feel our way to a better future.”

Suzanne Moore, Observer

“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

“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

“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 slowdown 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

“[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**

“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

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

Ben Collyer, New Scientist

“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

“This is an ambitious book with plenty to commend it, which covers many concerns in our age of political upheaval – from drone warfare and safe spaces to imperialism and the Anthropocene.”

David Runciman, Guardian

“[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

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

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

“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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