Anger and Forgiveness by Martha Nussbaum

Today’s digital communication and social media make the cultivation of anger and resentment an easy hobby. The Internet is bursting with people full of rage, and also anxiously scanning the world for signs of their own ‘ego status’.

In this book, derived from her 2014 Locke Lectures at Oxford University, Martha Nussbaum ( argues that anger, albeit sometimes useful, is neither a desirable place to dwell nor a noble foundation upon which to build a just society. The author deploys arguments and references ranging from the Eumenides to Everybody Loves Raymond. She shows us that anger is not constructive. Taking revenge never actually restores what was damaged. Nussbaum commends a kind of transition into concern for personal and social welfare.

Three danger areas are identified: the intimate personal realm, acquaintanceships, and the political realm of public justice. Concerning the latter she notes that anger is often presumed noble and essential, helping the oppressed to assert themselves and pursue justice. She argues, following Gandhi and King, that anger gets in the way of the generosity and empathy needed for a future of justice. Revolutionaries, we learn, must be strange sorts of people, part Stoic and part creatures of love. Mandela is Nussbaum’s example.

Turning to forgiveness, Nussbaum¬†finds its traditional religious form too disciplinary and debasing, rooted in a Judaeo-Christian worldview. She offers¬†the alternative of¬†¬†‘unconditional love and generosity’. Her discussion of how this was practised by Mandela, whose life was testament to the power of non-anger against injustice, is the best part of this book.

Check if this thought provoking and topical recent book is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

336 pages in OUP USA

First published 2016

ISBN  978-0199335879

Martha Nussbaum

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