Nussbaum’s fundamental idealism is undiminished by the coarseness of our time: she still believes in a 'loving, imaginative vision (through poetry and music...) and a spirit of deliberation and rational critique embodied in … good political discourse.' If Germany is right now 'one of the most fear-resistant and balanced nations in the world, it may well be because instead of snarky backbiting, politicians on both sides actually sit down and think' ... She believes that other kinds of stigma—based on class, race and age—are equally susceptible to cure by the kind of mass integration of young citizens that universal national service would require. The subtext of her idea is that 'young people would see the diversity of people in their country as soldiers in World War II learned to do during their service, only my young people would be trying to help, not to kill.' That is one of several noble notions in this book. Everyone who still believes we can rescue the republic should embrace all of them. 'Hope really is a choice,' says the author, 'and a practical habit.'
Readers will notice that the path Nussbaum charts from destructive to generous emotions unfolds along the political principles of the secular left. To be sure, Nussbaum calls for open public dialogue that includes a diverse range of voices. But then she dismisses religionists’ theological convictions as a distraction from political activism and waves away conservatives’ worries about family life. But even readers skeptical about Nussbaum’s political orientation will welcome this call for an emotionally healthier public life.
...one of the virtues of this slender volume is how gradually and scrupulously it moves, as Nussbaum pushes you to slow down, think harder and revisit your knee-jerk assumptions ... The book starts out strong, as she breaks fear down into first principles in order to show how feelings of insecurity and powerlessness can render an otherwise useful emotion like anger, or a desire for fairness, into something more vengeful and poisonous. She’s a skillful rhetorician, gracefully navigating her way around partisan land mines by talking about babies and ancient Greece ... Her cool approach to incendiary topics is part of what makes her work so brilliant and so frustrating. To counter the 'toxic brew' of fearful anger, envy and misogyny, she proposes...'strategies.' She’s not necessarily wrong, but does she have to sound so bloodless and Apollonian about it? ... When it comes to seeing the small, scared child in everyone, though, Nussbaum can be illuminating.