William Davies

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Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World

book | Non-Fiction | 2018
UK & Comm → Jonathan Cape (Ed. Bea Hemming)
US & Canada → W W Norton & Co, Inc (Ed. Tom Mayer)

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.


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Claire Nozieres manages the translation rights for Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World

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Piper Verlag
Einaudi Editore
AST Publishers
Editorial Sexto Piso

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

[W]ide-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. .... bring[s] to mind the roving approach of Marshall McLuhan or Bruno Latour.

Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

Davies is a wonderfully alert and nimble guide and his absorbing and edgy book will help us feel our way to a better future. After all, it is only through understanding our anxiety and acknowledging our pain that a different world can be made. Psychotherapists call this “the work” and Davies is doing some of the heavy lifting and probing for us.

Suzanne Moore, The Guardian


Matthew D’Ancona
The Guardian

A penetrating analysis of 21st-century politics and culture in the U.S. and the U.K... A fresh, astute examination of current events and urgent challenges.

Kirkus Reviews

I wouldn’t call it a manifesto for hope but it’s a call for action at least – a form of slow populism, perhaps.

Johanna Thomas-Corr
Evening Standard

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.

The 50 biggest books of autumn 2018, the Guardian

An interdisciplinary masterpiece ... Davies seamlessly blend[s] psychology, biology, economics, philosophy, advertising and religion - from Hobbes to Freud - to illuminate how centuries of unreason have spawned our current president. 

Mark Green, The New York Times

Nervous States ... sits at the intersection of ongoing debates about post-truth, the assault on reason, the privileging of personal feelings and the rise of populism. Nervous States stands out for its sincere attempt not simply to lament these trends but to understand them. [Davies] makes a compelling case for paying more attention to the role of feelings, alongside that of reason, in modern life.

Financial Times

Illuminating about the frankly alarming condition of our politics

Melanie McDonagh
Evening Standard 'Best Books of 2018'

Davies's impressively wide-ranging and imaginative analysis gives us a deeper understanding of the gap between fact and popular perception.

Paul Gordon
The Times Literary Supplement

We should all read William Davies's Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World, a concise, penetrating exploration of the role played by negative emotions in our recent politics and culture.

Johanna Thomas Corr
Evening Standard 'Best Books of 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 slowdown we have to confront our fears, our pain and our resentment. We have to redefine hope

Danny Dorling

Karolina Sutton
+44 (0)20 7393 4428
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Translation Rights
Sophie Baker
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