The Lesser Evil

The Lesser Evil : Political Ethics in an Age of Terror

3.41 (209 ratings by Goodreads)
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Must we fight terrorism with terror and torture with torture? Must we sacrifice civil liberty to protect public safety? In the age of terrorism Michael Ignatieff argues that we must not shrink from the use of violence. But its use - in a liberal democracy - must be measured. 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. He shows how the most potent response to terror has been force, decisive and direct, yet restrained. The public scrutiny and political ethics that motivate restraint also give democracy its strongest weapon: the moral power to endure when vengeance and hatred are spent.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 22mm | 324g
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New
  • 0748622241
  • 9780748622245
  • 1,140,899

Table of contents

1. Political Ethics in an Age of Terror; 2. The Strength of the Weak; 3. The Weakness of the Strong; 4. The Ethics of Emergency; 5. The Temptations of Nihilism; 6. The Usefulness of Ethics.
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Review quote

Ignatieff is a rarity among modern thinkers and ethicists for his ability to communicate to a wide audience with lucidity, intellectual clarity and power. All these were to the fore in his 2000 analysis Virtual War, focussed on the Balkan conflicts, and they are present to the highest degree in The Lesser Evil ... Profound and powerful and a book that no thinking person should fail to read. 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 The strength of Igniatieff's thoughtful book is that it avoids reflexive answers and ideological certainties and insists on weighing choices carefully with respect to concrete human consequences.
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About Michael Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff is Carr Professor and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
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Rating details

209 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 13% (27)
4 33% (69)
3 39% (82)
2 11% (24)
1 3% (7)
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