Catalogue


The lesser evil : political ethics in an age of terror /
Michael Ignatieff.
imprint
Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2005, c2004.
description
xviii, 212 p. ; 21 cm.
ISBN
0691123936
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
series title
imprint
Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2005, c2004.
isbn
0691123936
general note
"With a new preface by the author."
catalogue key
5835573
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Michael Ignatieff is Carr Professor of Human Rights Practice and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Lionel Gelber Prize, CAN, 2004 : Nominated
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-04-19:
Ignatieff, a leading liberal thinker on human rights issues, offers an impeccably (if often redundantly) argued case for how to balance security and liberty in the face of the new kind of threat posed by today's terrorists. His basic principle is that neither security nor liberty trumps the other a middle-of-the-road position but the more security-minded will no doubt find the author leans more to the civil libertarian side as he insists that, while the president may have prerogatives in terms of, say, limiting civil liberties, these actions must always be subject to legislative and judicial review. In the course of his discussion, Ignatieff, director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights, touches on key and troubling issues, such as how a democracy fighting nihilistic terrorists can avoid falling into the nihilistic trap itself, and why (according to Ignatieff) there is no moral equivalence between the violence perpetrated by a Palestinian suicide bomber and that of Israel's military retaliations. On the question of torture, Ignatieff argues, against Alan Dershowitz, that even in "ticking-bomb" cases torture must be abjured. Equally controversial but forcefully argued is his contention that a liberal democracy must respect the human rights of its enemies, however inhumane their own actions have been. The bottom line for Ignatieff is, in the end, commonsensical: a moral response to terrorism, while advancing security, must respect the equality and dignity of all and "make the fewest possible changes to our tried and tested standards of due process." This is an essential starting point for liberals and civil libertarians in grappling with the difficult moral and political challenges posed by the war on terror. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2005-02-01:
"Must we fight terrorism with terror, match assassination with assassination, and torture with torture? Must we sacrifice civil liberty to protect public safety?" Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, poses these questions. He concludes that force must be used to protect democracy, but only in calculated ways. If we do kill, we must remember that this is nothing better than "a lesser evil." In developing his argument, Ignatieff takes the middle road between "pure civil libertarianism" (no violation of civil rights is justified) and strict pragmatism (killers should be killed). Begun in the form of public lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh (2003), the book contains six chapters: "Democracy and the Lesser Evil," "Ethics of Emergency," "Weakness of the Strong," "Strength of the Weak," "Temptations of Nihilism," and "Liberty and Armageddon." In the latter chapter, Ignatieff discusses terrorists' possible acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), predicting that terrorists--if they use WMD--will attack less frequently but with far more catastrophic effects. Such attacks might end the era of modern states begun in 1648 after the Thirty Years War. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. J. Granville Stanford University
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-05-15:
In this wise and reflective book, Ignatieff (director, Carr Ctr. for Human Rights Policy, Harvard) draws upon his training as a historian and journalist to look behind the popular knee-jerk reactions to terrorism. Ignatieff is more a realist than an ideologue, and he presents an overview of how democracies have dealt with terrorist movements in the past and how they might best approach the terrorist threat today. Central to his book are several questions: Is there no moral limit to what a republic can do when its existence is threatened? Are human rights to be sacrificed for the safety of the population? Finally, when is extreme violence justified? Ignatieff argues that when violence by the state is justified, it should be tempered and limited; likewise, when emergency measures are enacted (such as the suspension of civil liberties), they need to be temporary. With examples from history (the Roman Empire, tsarist Russia, the IRA, and Britain), he explores the tension between democracy and survival and concludes that "liberal democracies consistently overreact to terrorist threats." This book is much more than a philosophical exercise. Ignatieff addresses real concerns, such as the acquisition of nuclear or chemical weapons by terrorist organizations. This should be required reading for all informed citizens as we face an uncertain future.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib, Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
[A] wise and reflective book. . . . This book is much more than a philosophical exercise. Ignatieff addresses real concerns, such as the acquisition of nuclear or chemical weapons by terrorist organizations. This should be required reading for all informed citizens as we face an uncertain future. -- Library Journal
Ignatieff presents a convincing argument as to how terrorist threats should be handled at the political level: with a combination of determination and caution.
Ignatieff presents a convincing argument as to how terrorist threats should be handled at the political level: with a combination of determination and caution. -- em Segev,"Ethics
Ignatieff presents a convincing argument as to how terrorist threats should be handled at the political level: with a combination of determination and caution. -- Re'em Segev,"Ethics
We need calm, reasoned advice on how to balance the interests of security and liberty. We have it now in a remarkable book. Michael Ignatieff brings history, philosophy, law, and democratic morality to bear on the problem. That may sound daunting, but Ignatieff is such a forceful writer that it is a fascinating book. . . . Reading him is a bit like having a conversation with an eminently reasonable but convinced and powerfully convincing man. -- Anthony Lewis, New York Review of Books
Michael Ignatieff has written a sober yet chilling account of the issues facing liberal democracies in the face of modern international terrorism. In a surgical analysis he describes the challenges facing their leaders and citizens. His warning of the critical dangers of under- and over-reaction in combating terrorism could not be more timely.
Michael Ignatieff'sThe Lesser Evilis a strikingly readable rumination on the ethical challenge of our time: How can a liberal democracy survive the long struggle against terror and do so in ways that preserve its institutions and dignity intact? His answer is a profound moral analysis, drawing on insights from philosophy, law, and literature, of how to surmount the strength of the terrorists, who are weak, and avoid the weakness of the democracies, who can be both strong and just.
Michael Ignatieff assesses America's war on terror and tries to determine what security measures a society can tolerate and still consider itself virtuous.
Michael Ignatieff assesses America's war on terror and tries to determine what security measures a society can tolerate and still consider itself virtuous. -- New York Times Book Review
Michael Ignatieff has written a book in defense of liberty, in praise of democracy. . . . [I]t is too rare that the task is conducted with Ignatieff's learning and subtlety.
Michael Ignatieff has written a book in defense of liberty, in praise of democracy. . . . [I]t is too rare that the task is conducted with Ignatieff's learning and subtlety. -- Jedediah Purdy, Michigan Law Review
We need calm, reasoned advice on how to balance the interests of security and liberty. We have it now in a remarkable book. Michael Ignatieff brings history, philosophy, law, and democratic morality to bear on the problem. That may sound daunting, but Ignatieff is such a forceful writer that it is a fascinating book. . . . Reading him is a bit like having a conversation with an eminently reasonable but convinced and powerfully convincing man.
Ignatieff's analysis is nuanced, balancing ideals, necessities and practicalities, and his literary inspirations are a welcome addition to doleful history. . . . [The] discussion that this book can inspire is well worth the effort for those struggling to sustain a free society and build a more hopeful world. -- William S. Kowinski, San Francisco Chronicle
Ignatieff's analysis is nuanced, balancing ideals, necessities, and practicalities, and his literary inspirations are a welcome addition to doleful history. -- William S. Kowinski, San Francisco Chronicle
Ignatieff understands that democracies around the world were fighting terrorism long before 9/11. In this exceptionally sophisticated commentary, he provides much-needed global and historical context for America's war against al-Qaeda, illuminating the promise and peril of a range of possible strategies for combating terrorist threats. . . . The sheer diversity of his case studies enables Ignatieff to discredit any simple-minded approach to terrorism. . . . [His] impressive scholarship also underscores his warning that unless democracies subject all of their extraordinary tactics to legislative oversight and judicial scrutiny, they may subvert the very political traditions they set out to defend. The turbulence of recent history guarantees keen interest for this sobering inquiry.
Ignatieff understands that democracies around the world were fighting terrorism long before 9/11. In this exceptionally sophisticated commentary, he provides much-needed global and historical context for America's war against al-Qaeda, illuminating the promise and peril of a range of possible strategies for combating terrorist threats. . . . The sheer diversity of his case studies enables Ignatieff to discredit any simple-minded approach to terrorism. . . . [His] impressive scholarship also underscores his warning that unless democracies subject all of their extraordinary tactics to legislative oversight and judicial scrutiny, they may subvert the very political traditions they set out to defend. The turbulence of recent history guarantees keen interest for this sobering inquiry. -- Booklist
InThe Lesser Evil, Michael Ignatieff addresses the ethical problems faced by liberal democracies. . . . [H]e soberly deals with permanent problems of American foreign policy, not only those specifically provoked by the Bush administration's war on terror: the problems of attempting to rule without demonstrated legitimacy, the prudential problem of choosing the lesser evil, the expedient choice of deliberative abuse or suspension of rights considered defining qualities of democracy, the limits of acceptable violence and coercion, and the problems of arbitrary detention, torture, assassinationand disregard of the rule of law--all the subject of policy choices made in Washington since September 2001.
InThe Lesser Evil, Michael Ignatieff addresses the ethical problems faced by liberal democracies. . . . [H]e soberly deals with permanent problems of American foreign policy, not only those specifically provoked by the Bush administration's war on terror: the problems of attempting to rule without demonstrated legitimacy, the prudential problem of choosing the lesser evil, the expedient choice of deliberative abuse or suspension of rights considered defining qualities of democracy, the limits of acceptable violence and coercion, and the problems of arbitrary detention, torture, assassinationand disregard of the rule of law--all the subject of policy choices made in Washington since September 2001. -- William Pfaff, Los Angeles Times
Ignatieff's analysis is nuanced, balancing ideals, necessities and practicalities, and his literary inspirations are a welcome addition to doleful history. . . . [The] discussion that this book can inspire is well worth the effort for those struggling to sustain a free society and build a more hopeful world.
Ignatieff's analysis is nuanced, balancing ideals, necessities, and practicalities, and his literary inspirations are a welcome addition to doleful history.
[A] thoughtful essay by a leading public intellectual. . . . [Ignatieff] eloquently argu[es] that a liberal democracy can survive the age of terror only if it takes seriously the political context within which terrorism thrives--that is, by engaging, persuading, and championing social justice. -- Foreign Affairs
[A] wise and reflective book. . . . This book is much more than a philosophical exercise. Ignatieff addresses real concerns, such as the acquisition of nuclear or chemical weapons by terrorist organizations. This should be required reading for all informed citizens as we face an uncertain future.
[A] thoughtful essay by a leading public intellectual. . . . [Ignatieff] eloquently argu[es] that a liberal democracy can survive the age of terror only if it takes seriously the political context within which terrorism thrives--that is, by engaging, persuading, and championing social justice.
In The Lesser Evil, Michael Ignatieff addresses the ethical problems faced by liberal democracies. . . . [H]e soberly deals with permanent problems of American foreign policy, not only those specifically provoked by the Bush administration's war on terror: the problems of attempting to rule without demonstrated legitimacy, the prudential problem of choosing the lesser evil, the expedient choice of deliberative abuse or suspension of rights considered defining qualities of democracy, the limits of acceptable violence and coercion, and the problems of arbitrary detention, torture, assassinationand disregard of the rule of law--all the subject of policy choices made in Washington since September 2001. -- William Pfaff, Los Angeles Times
This item was reviewed in:
New York Times Book Review, October 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Back Cover Copy
"Michael Ignatieff has written a sober yet chilling account of the issues facing liberal democracies in the face of modern international terrorism. In a surgical analysis he describes the challenges facing their leaders and citizens. His warning of the critical dangers of under- and over-reaction in combating terrorism could not be more timely."--Justice Richard Goldstone, Constitutional Court of South Africa "Michael Ignatieff'sThe Lesser Evilis a strikingly readable rumination on the ethical challenge of our time: How can a liberal democracy survive the long struggle against terror and do so in ways that preserve its institutions and dignity intact? His answer is a profound moral analysis, drawing on insights from philosophy, law, and literature, of how to surmount the strength of the terrorists, who are weak, and avoid the weakness of the democracies, who can be both strong and just."--Michael Doyle, Harold Brown Professor of Law and International Affairs, Columbia University
Back Cover Copy
"Michael Ignatieff has written a sober yet chilling account of the issues facing liberal democracies in the face of modern international terrorism. In a surgical analysis he describes the challenges facing their leaders and citizens. His warning of the critical dangers of under- and over-reaction in combating terrorism could not be more timely."--Justice Richard Goldstone, Constitutional Court of South Africa "Michael Ignatieff's The Lesser Evilis a strikingly readable rumination on the ethical challenge of our time: How can a liberal democracy survive the long struggle against terror and do so in ways that preserve its institutions and dignity intact? His answer is a profound moral analysis, drawing on insights from philosophy, law, and literature, of how to surmount the strength of the terrorists, who are weak, and avoid the weakness of the democracies, who can be both strong and just."--Michael Doyle, Harold Brown Professor of Law and International Affairs, Columbia University
Back Cover Copy
"Michael Ignatieff has written a sober yet chilling account of the issues facing liberal democracies in the face of modern international terrorism. In a surgical analysis he describes the challenges facing their leaders and citizens. His warning of the critical dangers of under- and over-reaction in combating terrorism could not be more timely."--Justice Richard Goldstone, Constitutional Court of South Africa"Michael Ignatieff'sThe Lesser Evilis a strikingly readable rumination on the ethical challenge of our time: How can a liberal democracy survive the long struggle against terror and do so in ways that preserve its institutions and dignity intact? His answer is a profound moral analysis, drawing on insights from philosophy, law, and literature, of how to surmount the strength of the terrorists, who are weak, and avoid the weakness of the democracies, who can be both strong and just."--Michael Doyle, Harold Brown Professor of Law and International Affairs, Columbia University
Main Description
Must we fight terrorism with terror, match assassination with assassination, and torture with torture? Must we sacrifice civil liberty to protect public safety? In the age of terrorism, the temptations of ruthlessness can be overwhelming. But we are pulled in the other direction too by the anxiety that a violent response to violence makes us morally indistinguishable from our enemies. There is perhaps no greater political challenge today than trying to win the war against terror without losing our democratic souls. Michael Ignatieff confronts this challenge head-on, with the combination of hard-headed idealism, historical sensitivity, and political judgment that has made him one of the most influential voices in international affairs today. Ignatieff argues that we must not shrink from the use of violence--that far from undermining liberal democracy, force can be necessary for its survival. But its use must be measured, not a program of torture and revenge. And we must not fool ourselves that whatever we do in the name of freedom and democracy is good. We may need to kill to fight the greater evil of terrorism, but we must never pretend that doing so is anything better than a lesser evil. In making this case, Ignatieff traces the modern history of terrorism and counter-terrorism, from the nihilists of Czarist Russia and the militias of Weimar Germany to the IRA and the unprecedented menace of Al Qaeda, with its suicidal agents bent on mass destruction. He shows how the most potent response to terror has been force, decisive and direct, but--just as important--restrained. The public scrutiny and political ethics that motivate restraint also give democracy its strongest weapon: the moral power to endure when the furies of vengeance and hatred are spent. The book is based on the Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 2003.
Main Description
Must we fight terrorism with terror, match assassination with assassination, and torture with torture? Must we sacrifice civil liberty to protect public safety?In the age of terrorism, the temptations of ruthlessness can be overwhelming. But we are pulled in the other direction too by the anxiety that a violent response to violence makes us morally indistinguishable from our enemies. There is perhaps no greater political challenge today than trying to win the war against terror without losing our democratic souls. Michael Ignatieff confronts this challenge head-on, with the combination of hard-headed idealism, historical sensitivity, and political judgment that has made him one of the most influential voices in international affairs today.Ignatieff argues that we must not shrink from the use of violence--that far from undermining liberal democracy, force can be necessary for its survival. But its use must be measured, not a program of torture and revenge. And we must not fool ourselves that whatever we do in the name of freedom and democracy is good. We may need to kill to fight the greater evil of terrorism, but we must never pretend that doing so is anything better than a lesser evil.In making this case, Ignatieff traces the modern history of terrorism and counter-terrorism, from the nihilists of Czarist Russia and the militias of Weimar Germany to the IRA and the unprecedented menace of Al Qaeda, with its suicidal agents bent on mass destruction. He shows how the most potent response to terror has been force, decisive and direct, but--just as important--restrained. The public scrutiny and political ethics that motivate restraint also give democracy its strongest weapon: the moral power to endure when the furies of vengeance and hatred are spent.The book is based on the Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 2003.
Main Description
There is perhaps no greater political challenge today than trying to win the war against terror without losing our democratic souls. Michael Ignatieff confronts this challenge head-on, with the combination of hard-headed idealism, historical sensitivity, and political judgment that has made him one of the most influential voices in international affairs today.
Table of Contents
Preface to the Paperback Editionp. vii
Prefacep. xiii
Democracy and the Lesser Evilp. 1
The Ethics of Emergencyp. 25
The Weakness of the Strongp. 54
The Strength of the Weakp. 82
The Temptations of Nihilismp. 112
Liberty and Armageddonp. 145
Notesp. 171
Indexp. 205
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem