How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century
Bloomsbury, $39.99 hb, 306 pp, 9781472947727
Fear has always been a dominant element of human existence, across all human societies, but has our attitude to it changed? It might be argued that our concern with threats has become more pronounced. Is the twenty-first century an especially fearful period in human history?
At the heart of Frank Furedi’s book is the striking assertion that the concept of ‘fear’ is key to understanding our current socio-historical condition: his claim is that we are caught in a ‘culture of fear’. According to Furedi, the idea of a culture of fear provides genuine insight into our current predicament, that is, what is to be regretted about the present.
In recent times, allegations that the general population is being deliberately manipulated by misplaced fears have become commonplace in political life. Such allegations are typically raised with the aim of debunking the arguments of one’s opponents, casting them as forms of ‘moral panic’. An obvious case in point here would be the debates held in the United Kingdom in 2016 over whether Britain should leave the European Union, in which both sides attacked their respective opponents for engaging in scare campaigns. Such debunking is a major theme of the book.