The Need for Roots

Penguin Classics. Feb. 2022. 320p. tr. from French by Ros Schwartz. ISBN 9780241467978. pap. $18. PHIL
Long overdue and just in time, Weil’s most challenging and rewarding magnum opus gets a clear and expressive new translation by Ros Schwartz, its first since 1952, plus a vital introduction and endnotes by Kate Kirkpatrick. Writing in a white heat just months before her death in 1943 at the age of 34, Weil applies her brilliant, far-reaching intellect to a systemic critique of the material and spiritual ills of the modern age, enumerating human needs far subtler than those in Maslow’s hierarchy. She suggests the answer to the dehumanizing and alienating influences of capitalism and colonialism may lie in a more cohesive, grounded polity that values compassion and mutual obligation over individual rights. Then, in the spirit of Plato, Christ, and Marx, the audacious visionary rolls up her sleeves and gets to work drafting the plans. Complex and accomplished as it is, hers is a work in progress; the rest is up to us.
VERDICT Perennially debated, puzzled over, critiqued, and lauded, Weil’s impassioned contribution to the philosophy of human flourishing gathers resonance in a polarized world out of balance. Essential.
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