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by Michael Ignatieff

Category: Philosophy
Subcategory: Political books
Author: Michael Ignatieff
ISBN: 0701208643
ISBN13: 978-0701208646
Language: English
Publisher: The Hogarth Press Ltd; New Ed edition (1990)
Pages: 160
Fb2 eBook: 1396 kb
ePub eBook: 1120 kb
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He lives in London and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Needs of Strangers restores philosophy to its proper place as a guide to the art of being human.

Drawing on these sources, he has written an incisive, moving interpretation of community and democracy in a work that not only examines the breakdown of human solidarity but shows how it might be re-created. The Needs of Strangers restores philosophy to its proper place as a guide to the art of being human.

Michael Ignatieff is a historian, a fiction writer and public intellectual who has written several books on international relations . Philosophical writings by Ignatieff include The Needs of Strangers and The Rights Revolution.

Michael Ignatieff is a historian, a fiction writer and public intellectual who has written several books on international relations and nation building. He has written seventeen books, and has been described by the British Arts Council as "an extraordinarily versatile writer," in both the style and the subjects he writes about. He has contributed articles to publications such as The Globe and Mail, The New Republic, and The New York Times Magazine. The latter work explores social welfare and community, and shows Berlin's influence on Ignatieff.

The Needs of Strangers book.

Teacher, writer, Liberal.

Michael Ignatieff is a richly talented writer and reporter. The Needs of Strangers. The Warrior’s Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience. One of his greatest gifts is an eye for the heartbreaking detail that makes the seeming madness of recent news stories comprehensible in human terms. Robert McNeil, The McNeil/Lehrer News Hour.

He lives in London and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Born in Canada, educated at the University of Toronto and Harvard, Michael Ignatieff is a university professor, writer and former politician

Born in Canada, educated at the University of Toronto and Harvard, Michael Ignatieff is a university professor, writer and former politician. His major publications are The Needs of Strangers (1984), Scar Tissue (1992), Isaiah Berlin (1998), The Rights Revolution (2000), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004), and Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics (2013). Between 2006 and 2011, he served as an MP in the Parliament of Canada and then as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition.

About The Needs of Strangers

About The Needs of Strangers.

THE NEEDS OF STRANGERS By Michael Ignatieff. 156 pp. New York: Elisabeth Sifton Books/Viking. And here is Michael Ignatieff, a young, highly regarded Canadian historian, asking such questions as whether any society deserving to be called decent can be satisfied with meeting its citizens' material needs while ignoring their requirements for ''fraternity, love, belonging, dignity, and respect.

Comments to eBook The Needs of Strangers
This book is a short philosophical "essay" on the meaning of moral community, and our responsibility for other human beings and their needs, the "strangers" in the title. It is about survival needs, but much more. It is about the fulfillment of needs to realize the full potential of being human. This is an important contribution to the meaning of the welfare state because it points out that the conservative attack on the welfare state is an attack on the idea that needs create rights, and thereby is an attack on the idea of the moral community.
Ignatieff has written a challenging, spiritual book that invites the reader to actually think above the norm. I want to know more about how he thinks.
Excellent foundation for understanding welfare.
This interesting essay is modeled on the provocative essays of Ignatieff's mentor, the great Isaiah Berlin. In this work, Ignatieff explores the idea of need and its consequences for how we think about the political and social organization of our societies. Ignatieff's point of departure is the fact that the modern welfare states provide, as a matter of right, support for a few narrowly defined physical needs but that this leaves a large range of important needs untouched. Satisfaction of these needs has left not only other important needs unsatisfied but has resulted in an erosion of social solidarity essential to certain aspects of needs. Ignatieff sets out to explore historic conceptions of need and how they relate to influential political and economic theories. Having defined the problem, Ignatieff proceeds to a series of interesting essays examining conceptions of need and various analyses of society. These include a sensitive reading of King Lear as a study of natural versus social man, a relevant analysis of Augustine, and particularly good study of the implications of Hume's philosophy using Hume's death as it fulcrum, and a nice comparison of Adam Smith and Rousseau. Ignatieff demonstrates that conceptions of need are variable, often contradictory, and that different conceptions have markedly different consdequences for how we think society should be organized. These sections are insightful and Ignatieff is a very good and often eloquent writer. The deficiency of this book is that having exposed these difficulties, Ignatieff makes no effort to show a way forward except to say that we need to develop a "language of needs." Presumably, this means some kind of common vocabulary that would allow us to address the problems of defining and addressing many human needs. Aside from the ambiguity of his statements, he makes no effort to suggest how such a vocabulary could be constructed. What kind of definitions could be used? Is there a typology of needs possible? Is there a hierarchy of needs? How does this impact on thinking about organizing society. These are difficult questions but having set the stage for addressing these issues, Ignatieff abruptly rings down the curtain.
"Being human is an accomplishment like playing an instrument. It takes practice. The keys must be mastered. The old score must be committed to memory. It is a skill we can forget. A little noise can make us forget the notes. The best of us is historical; the best of us is fragile. Being human is a second nature which history taught us, and which terror and deprivation can batter us into forgetting."
In this slender volume, Michael Ignatieff argues beautifully and eloquently for a modern humanism based on the awareness of what makes us human: our ability to express our needs and our ability to remember and reflect our history. It is also a short history of ideas in the field of political philosophy, ranging from the Stoics to Rousseau.
The "needs of strangers" refer to "fraternity," the most difficult of the ideals on the banner of the French Revolution of 1789. "Liberty, equality, fraternity" still determine to a large extent our modern political discussion. Michael Ignatieff asks to what extent have we achieved "fraternity" (solidarity, that is), to what extent can we achieve it, at what cost do we achieve it? On his stroll through the history of ideas he discusses the key issues of our social existence against the backdrop of political philosophy: what is our social identity? Is there a natural human identity? What happened to our metaphysical needs in the modern secular society?
Ignatieff is not a mystic or a dreamer, however. His views are firmly grounded in the Western philosophical tradition. For him, "political utopias are a form of nostalgia for an imagined past projected onto the future as a wish." He is for the most part a realist who thinks we need justice (i.e. equality before the law), we need liberty, and "we need as much solidarity as can be reconciled with justice and liberty."
Ignatieff's book is not light reading, in particular because the term "need" is not part of our familiar political vocabulary. Another reason is that Ignatieff is writing against the grain of our times. He speaks about our silences: our "silence about the meaning of death," meaning our having shelved the ultimate questions; our silence about human solidarity and dignity, meaning our having relegated all responsibility for the needs of strangers to the welfare system. In our silences, he fears, we risk becoming strangers to our better selves: "Our needs are made of words: they come to us in speech, and they can die for lack of expression. Without a public language to help find us our own words, our needs will dry up in silence. It is words only, the common meanings they bear, which give me the right to speak in the name of the strangers at my door. Without a language adequate to this moment we risk losing ourselves in resignation towards the portion of life which has been allotted to us." Or put more bluntly: if we speak only the language of profit and consumption, we will never learn to speak of what we can be as individuals and human beings.
For once, I fully agree with the blurb on the cover of a book: Incisive and moving, "The Needs of Strangers" returns philosophy to its proper place, as a guide to the art of being human.
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