Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


Marshall N. Goldstein




Simone Weil wrote The Need for Roots in 1943 to explain how France could be returned to her people after the war. While this was her immediate interest, the concerns she raises are applicable to modem society in general. Weil suggests that the seeming despair and hopelessness bestowed upon human beings can be attributed to a condition that she describes as "uprootedness". Owing largely to industrialization, money, and the rise of the nation-state, individuals are no longer connected in time and space to anything. They are beings without a history, driven by blind ambition and egoism, and hence no understanding of who and what they are. The problem revealed in The Need for Roots is that modern society leaves no room for an authentic expression of loyalty. The tragic outcome, however, is that individuals come to love the state because there is nothing else to love. Individuals find themselves living in "democracies" in which everything connected with public life is despised. They are cut off from all environments that might otherwise enable them some control over their lives and a point of reference for determining who and what they are. This thesis examines what Weil means by Il0yatty", why it might be important, and how it can occupy a place in modern society. Weil suggests that a life devoid of loyalty is a life devoid of meaning and hope and yet this is the condition in which modem society finds itself. In the past 50 years, the main focus of study on Weil has been her religious writings. This thesis attempts to examine her political ideas as they come to bear in The Need for Roots. The intention of the thesis is not to pass judgement on Weil's ideas, which are often other-worldly and some would argue idealistic, but to give serious consideration to her civic mindedness.

McMaster University Library

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