The Needs of Strangers

Michael Ignatieff




Trade Paperback

168 Pages


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This thought-provoking book uncovers a crisis in the political imagination. Specifically, The Needs of Strangers identifies a wide-spread failure on the part of humanity to provide the passionate sense of community "in which our need for belonging can be met." Seeking answers to fundamental questions on the nature of modern humanism, Ignatieff writes vividly about both key ideas and the people who have tried to live by them—from Augustine to Bosch, from Rousseau to Simone Weil.

Incisive and moving, this book returns philosophy to its proper place, as a guide to the art of being human. As the author writes herein: "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."


Praise for The Needs of Strangers

"Ignatieff has invoked the understanding, the wisdom, and the eloquence of some of the seminal thinkers in the Western tradition to help revive a sense of what we are or should be talking about when we talk about the needs of strangers."—Merle Rubin, The Christian Science Monitor

"A very eloquent meditation . . . on what we need to be human and how in our society those 'with resources and those in need remain strangers to each other.'"—Des Christy, The Guardian

"Unusual, beautifully written and profoundly thoughtful."—Bernard Crick, The New Statesman

"Ignatieff writes in urgent prose that even, at times, sounds a little evangelistic; and he will convince many people, in highly readable fashion, that the ideas being discussed really matter, that they are important to argue over; and that passion is admirable, because they do, and they are."—Salman Rushdie, The Guardian Weekly

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  • Michael Ignatieff

  • Michael Ignatieff is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, among other publications. He is also the author of many acclaimed books, including Blood and Belonging, Isaiah Berlin, Virtual War, The Warrior's Honor, and The Russian Album.