Some twenty years ago I accompanied Sidney Morgenbesser to the airport. In the lounge, while waiting for his flight, we discussed Rawls's theory of justice, which had deeply impressed us both. Before parting, Morgenbesser announced to me--as well as to all the other passengers-- that the urgent problem was not the just society but the decent society. To this day I am not sure what he meant by this, but the expression made a great impression on me. This book owes its existence to that remark of Morgenbesser's. I myself owe Morgenbesser much of my philosophical apprenticeship and not a few of my social persuasions.
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Avishai Margalit builds his social philosophy on this foundation: a decent society, or a civilized society, is one whose institutions do not humiliate the people under their authority, and whose citizens do not humiliate one another. What political philosophy needs urgently is a way that will permit us to live together without humiliation and with dignity.
Most of the philosophical attention nowadays is drawn to the ideal of the just society based on the right balance between freedom and equality. The ideal of the just society is a sublime one but hard to realize. The decent society is an ideal which can be realized even in our children's lifetime. We should get rid of cruelty first, advocated Judith Shklar. Humiliation is a close second. There is more urgency in bringing about a decent society than in bringing about a just one.
Margalit begins concretely where we live, with all the infuriating acts of humiliation that make living in the world so difficult. He argues in the spirit of Judith Shklar and Isiah Berlin. This is a social philosophy that resists all those menacing labels that promote moral laziness, just as it urges to get beyond the behaviour that labels other human beings.
Margalit can't be earmarked as liberal or conservative. If a label is necessary, then the most suitable is George Orwell's "humane socialism", a far cry from "Animal Farm" socialism with its many tools of oppression. How to be decent, how to build a decent society, emerges out of Margalit's analysis of the corrosive functioning of humiliation in its many forms.
This book springs from Margalit's experience at the borderlands of conflicts between Eastern Europeans and Westerners, between Palestinians and Israelis. Read more Read less. Review Margalit's discussion of these themes is full of deep psychological insight and philosophical precision. The book is a model of how philosophers, using only a fine attention to distinctions between similar-sounding moral terms, can help to clarify, and by doing so, purify our moral language.
It is a noble addition to our understanding of what our political and moral ideals should be and it frees political reflection from the strait-jacket of pure rights talk.
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Write a customer review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Verified Purchase. Have you ever pondered the question, What is a decent society?
Does the thought keep you awake at night, wondering, is the society in which I live decent? In this book, Avishai Margalit explains how he constructed his moral philosophy based on the following: a decent society or civilized society is one in which the institutions of that society do not humiliate people who are subject to their authority, and in which no citizen humilates another citizen or themselves.
Avishai Margalit goes on to argue that what is more important is not a "just society" but a "decent society", based on the equilibrium between liberty and equality, a society where cruelty and humiliation has been completely erradicated. This books influence should reach far beyond the confined bounds of formal philosphical debate and should be championed - or at least taken very seriously - by all decent and prospective politicians everywhere. Not since Rousseau himself has anyone approached the subject with such intelligence and passion as has Avishai Margalit.
Reading this book, was for me, like living a really extraordinary experience, as I sure it will be for you. Social inequalities and injustice are attributed to a bad society and everybody invariably nods in agreement that the society is at fault.
One gets an impression that all are talking about an invisible entity that is at fault. Who or what is this society? Avishai Margalit, a brilliant philosopher, explains how society comes in to being in the first place and who is responsible for it.
His answers for a decent society are easy to understand and his approach is pragmatic. He propagates that it is easier to ask people not to be bad to others than to ask people to be good; because being good is a matter of personal selective perception. He discusses in detail what the people in the institutions of a State should not be doing to their fellow citizens and why. We use expressions such as humiliation, insult, Welfare State and many others, in our daily life.
After reading the explanations of the author one gets an impression of having learned them for the first time. It is much more urgent to remove painful evils than to promote enjoyable benefits. This book though not for light reading and is also a philosophical one, yet the insights from the author can be very useful wherever human relationships and decent treatment for all in a company, society or a nation are an issue.
I think the most important service that this book could render to humanity is: if this book was made an obligatory study for politicians and leaders of our world.
What Mr. Margalit is saying is not Utopia, it is valid for an individual State and its treatment of its citizens but I find it is as easily applicable to relationships between different States. This book does not seek to set guidelines for harmonious international relationships amongst different countries but would certainly show many what they should not do to others.
For this reason this book should be given to the most powerful leaders and to the politicians in more unfortunate economies as well. Go to Amazon. Back to top. Get to Know Us. Shopbop Designer Fashion Brands. Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web.
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Avishai Margalit builds his social philosophy on this foundation: a decent society, or a civilized society, is one whose institutions do not humiliate the people under their authority, and whose citizens do not humiliate one another. What political philosophy needs urgently is a way that will permit us to live together without humiliation and with dignity. Most of the philosophical attention nowadays is drawn to the ideal of the just society based on the right balance between freedom and equality. The ideal of the just society is a sublime one but hard to realize. We should get rid of cruelty first, advocated Judith Shklar. Humiliation is a close second. There is more urgency in bringing about a decent society than in bringing about a just one.
The Decent Society
From to , he served as the George F. Avishai Margalit grew up in Jerusalem. He was educated in Jerusalem and did his army service in the airborne Nahal. In he started his studies at the Hebrew University, majoring in philosophy and economics. He earned his B. During his years of study he worked as an instructor in a youth village, working with immigrant children who arrived with the mass wave of immigration in the s. Thanks to a British Council scholarship he went to Queens College in Oxford University , where he stayed from to