Wednesday, 6 May 2009


There's an enormous amount to admire about Simone Weil's writing (and indeed about her life); but L'Enracinement/The Need for Roots might be the most wrongheaded book I have ever read. Written slap in the middle of the Second World War, it is an attempt not only to think how the future might best be organised but to get to the bottom of the then-present catastrophe in Europe. But Weil's inability to sacrifice her spiritual commitment to 'rootedness' ties her into a profound knot as she attempts to blame Fascism not (as was actually the case) on a too fixed emotional and political investment in 'roots', but rather on a sort of modern-malaise rootlessness. 'Whoever is uprooted himself uproots others,' she declares. 'Whoever is rooted himself doesn't uproot others' [45]. As if Nazi Germany's problem was that it was insufficiently connected with the heimat.

The postwar period has revealed, I think, the error here. The ongoing, mass exodus of every people everywhere has brought diversity and cultural variety to most of the world; and these, rather than uniformity or unity, are the strongest options.

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