Nick Klagge's Reviews > The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties towards Mankind

The Need for Roots by Simone Weil
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it was ok

This book definitely came as something of a disappointment for me. I had built up high hopes for it, because of its title and its provenance.

The foreword is by T.S. Eliot, and one of the things he stresses is the importance of seeing Weil as a thinker in the earliest stages of development (she died at the age of 34). When I read the foreword, I thought he was being condescending, but after finishing TNFR I definitely agree with him. Her ideas seem all over the place--at times I was underlining furiously, but other times I was shaking my head in total disagreement. (Apparently Charles de Gaulle didn't finish reading it.)

I think the real drawback of this book for a modern reader is that it is heavily focused on the context of its time--Weil wrote it in expectation of French liberation after WWII. Although it is certainly an interesting "national project," Weil drags on a lot about particular aspects of French history of the early 20th century, which unfortunately didn't keep my interest very much.

There are parts that I liked a lot. In light of recent discussions of corporate personhood, her emphatic argument that organizations shouldn't be allowed to "take positions" (i.e. only individuals should) is worth thinking about, even if of dubious practical application. Her taxonomy of the needs of humans at the outset is Aristotelian in flavor, and contributed to building up my hopes for the book. She discusses what we would now refer to as "appropriate technology", which is something that interests me. But to me, even as a liberal, her view of the state is distressingly invasive, including a great deal of censorship and "guiding" of attitudes. I'm no big fan of public choice theory, but I think that in practice the kind of state Weil proposes would be a nightmare of rent-seeking.
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Reading Progress

February 27, 2012 – Started Reading
February 27, 2012 – Shelved
March 7, 2012 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by James (new)

James Klagge Much of her work is aphoristic, which makes it more open to your own application or circumstances, and not so time-bound.


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