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The Need for Roots

Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Towards Mankind


Publisher writes

Hailed by Andre Gide as the patron saint of all outsiders, Simone Weil's short life was ample testimony to her beliefs. In 1942 she fled France along with her family, going firstly to America. She then moved back to London in order to work with de Gaulle. Published posthumously The Need for Roots was a direct result of this collaboration. Its purpose was to help rebuild France after the war. In this, her most famous book, Weil reflects on the importance of religious and political social structures in the life of the individual. She wrote that one of the basic obligations we have as human beings is to not let another suffer from hunger. Equally as important, however, is our duty towards our community: we may have declared various human rights, but we have overlooked the obligations and this has left us self-righteous and rootless. She could easily have been issuing a direct warning to us today, the citizens of Century 21.

Author Information

Simone Weil, T. S. Eliot

Simone Weil (1909-1943). A political theorist and activist, a revolutionary and a philosopher and religious mystic. She starved herself to death in protest against the Nazi occupation of France.

Judges' and contributors' comments

Bob Jeffery: This dense book was written by the French philosopher Simone Weil in 1943 looking for a regeneration of society after the War. She sees society as having been ‘Uprooted’ from its real foundations and shows how new roots could be established politically, spiritually and socially. Its radical nature means that it has been ignored especially by those who need to understand it, not least our political and spiritual leaders. This is a book to grapple with, and to allow it to disturb us.

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