Boston Review Interviews Martha Nussbaum About Her New Book

The New Religious Intolerance: An Interview with Martha Nussbaum
David V. Johnson
Boston Review
July 11, 2012

In her new book, The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age, Martha Nussbaum extends her distinguished body of work on liberalism, education, literature, and the emotions by turning to the growing anti-Muslim agitations in Europe and the United States. She spoke to Web Editor David V. Johnson by email from the University of Cologne, where she was lecturing on the themes of her book.

David Johnson: The idea for the book came from a column you wrote on burqa bans for “The Stone,” The New York Times’s “Opinionator” section dedicated to philosophy. Some academics and scholars shy away from such platforms for fear of dealing with public hostility and hyperbolic comments. Your column certainly garnered its share of both. Why do you think that, nevertheless, such outreach is worth your time?

Martha Nussbaum: Actually, I think few academics are more reluctant to write for blogs than I am. I have a standing policy never to read or write for blogs. I feel it will devour my time and distract from writing that I personally prefer. I made an exception in this case only because it was a series devoted to philosophy, and the media in the United States do not in general do a good job portraying philosophical debates. (Many other countries do much better.) Also, and even more important, they gave me space and time so that I could write a real article: about 10,000 words total including the initial blog and reply.

But in general I think my time is best spent writing books and articles, teaching my students, and interacting with my colleagues. Through my books I reach a broader audience than through The New York Times, in part because the audience for my books is international. Of course, I do not criticize others who like the blog medium. It is a matter of personal skill and taste.

Martha C. Nussbaum