The Needs of Strangers

The Needs of Strangers

An Essay on Privacy, Solidarity, and the Politics of Being Human

Written by:

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780140086812
  • 160 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


What do we need in order to survive?
Whose needs do we have a right to speak for?
Which needs can be satisfied through political actions, and which cannot?

To answer these vital questions, Michael Ignatieff returns to the ancient languages of religion, art, and tragedy—and to important texts by Shakespeare, St. Augustine, and the great writers of the Enlightenment.

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.

The Needs of Strangers

The Needs of Strangers

Written by: Michael Ignatieff


“Elegant meditations on human need. Ignatieff says something concrete and serious about each of his large topics.”
—Michael Walzer, The New Republic

“Ignatieff frames his questions with passion and precision [in a] searching and beautifully written meditation on human needs.”
Christian Science Monitor

“Michael Ignatieff writes an urgent prose … he will convince people, in highly readable fashion, that the ideas he discusses really matter.”
—Salman Rushdie, The Guardian

Table of Contents

Introduction: Tragedy and Utopia
1. The Natural and the Social: King Lear
2. Body and Spirit: Augustine, Bosch, Erasmus, Pascal
3. Metaphysics and the Market: Hume and Boswell
4. The Market and the Republic: Smith and Rousseau
Conclusion: Homelessness and Belonging