Would Politics Be Better Off Without Anger?

51sUiA1IpmL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Amia Srinivasan at The Nation:

In her latest book, Anger and Forgiveness, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues for just this. Even “great injustice,” she says, is no “excuse for childish and undisciplined behavior.” For not only is anger bad because of its consequences—alienating political opponents, breeding revenge and violence, inhibiting progress—it is also a bad thing in itself, an immoral and incoherent way of responding to the world.

To be angry, according to Nussbaum, is to thirst for revenge, either as a means of recompense for a wrongdoing or as a means of restoring one’s damaged social status after one. But revenge, she thinks, never works as recompense: The suffering of others cannot undo harm to oneself. At best, revenge repairs wounded egos: Humiliating my wrongdoer can elevate me by downgrading him. But that, Nussbaum says, is to operate in the barbaric logic of the honor code; it is not the stuff of justice. Thus “in a sane and not excessively anxious and status-focused person, anger…is a brief dream or cloud, soon dispelled by saner thoughts of personal and social welfare.” Resisting anger, Nussbaum thinks, is a mark not only of our humanity, but of our sanity.

Nussbaum describes this view of anger as “radical.” But it is not radical in the sense of being unfamiliar. With the notable exception of black and feminist thinkers who have defended anger as a vital tool of the oppressed, almost all of Western political thought since the Stoics has largely shared Nussbaum’s dim view of anger.

more here.