The Need for Roots

The Need for Roots

Prelude to a Declaration of Obligations towards the Human Being


A new translation of Simone Weil's best-known work: a political, philosophical and spiritual treatise on what human life could be

What do humans require to be truly nourished? Simone Weil, one of the foremost philosophers of the last century, envisaged us all as being bound by unconditional, eternal obligations towards every other human being. In The Need for Roots, her most famous work, she argued that our greatest need was to be rooted: in a community, a place, a shared past and collective future hopes. Written for the Free French movement while she was exiled in London during the Second World War, Weil's visionary combination of philosophy, politics and mysticism is her answer to the question of what life without occupation - and oppression - might be.

'The patron saint of all outsiders' Andre Gide

'The only great spirit of our time' Albert Camus

Translated by Ros Schwartz, with an introduction by Kate Kirkpatrick.


  • A masterpiece … Today it retains an eerie prescience. Looking to the past, Weil spoke to future generations who would feel, as she did, that history is a trap we only half understand … luminous
    Madoc Cairns, TLS

About the author

Simone Weil

Simone Weil (1909-43) was a French political activist, mystic and a singular figure in French philosophy. She studied at the elite École Normale Supérieure, obtained her agrégation (teaching diploma) in philosophy in 1931, worked at Renault from 1934 to 1935, enlisted in the International Brigades in 1936 and worked as a farm labourer in 1941. She left France in 1942 for New York and then London, where she worked for General de Gaulle's Free French movement. Most of her works, published posthumously, consist of some notebooks and a collection of religious essays. They include, in English, Waiting for God (1951), Gravity and Grace (1952), The Need for Roots (1952), Notebooks (two volumes, 1956), Oppression and Liberty (1958) and Selected Essays, 1934-1943 (1962).
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