Ill Fares the Land: A Treatise on Our Present Discontents

Author(s): Tony Judt

Current Affairs

'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay' - Oliver Goldsmith


Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of shared purpose. But we have forgotten how to think about the life we live together: its goals and purposes. We are now not only post-ideological; we have become post-ethical. We have lost touch with the old questions that have defined politics since the Greeks: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society? A better world?


The social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America - the guarantee of security, stability and fairness - is no longer assured; in fact, it's no longer part of collective conversation. In this exceptional short book, Tony Judt reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment and masterfully crystallizes our great unease, showing how we might yet think ourselves out of it. If we are to replace fear with confidence then we need a different story to tell, about state and society alike: a story that carries moral and political conviction. Providing that story is the purpose of this book.

Ill Fares the Land by historian Tony Judt, whose previous book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 won many awards,  is a passionate look at the world, contrasting the way we live now with the world we have lost.  It addresses some of the issues raised in The Spirit Level about the consequences of inequality in societies obsessed with personal wealth and argues that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we live today.  Sadly, Judt died of motor neurone disease just before the book was published. I found it a thought-provoking book. - Jan

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Sinewy analysis and supple prose, as clear and refreshing as a mountain stream - Christopher Silvester, Telegraph One of the most remarkable books on politics to have appeared for a very long time - John Gray, Literary Review

Elegant, courageous and deeply humane - Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

'It is hard to  imagine a more timely book . . . a passionate polemic'
David  Herman, New Statesman

'You should read Ill Fares the Land . . . for its temperate moral passion, its sinewy analysis and its supple prose' 
Christopher Silvester, Daily Telegraph

'Judt's impassioned, often angry polemic is sorely needed' 
Julian Baggini, Financial Times

'Essential reading'
Richard Eyre, Observer, Books of the Year

At the time of his death, Tony Judt was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University. In 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In 2009 Judt was awarded a Special Orwell Prize for Lifetime Achievement for his contribution to British Political writing. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005) was a runner up for the 2006 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

General Fields

  • : 9780718191412
  • : Penguin Books Ltd
  • : Penguin Books Ltd
  • : March 2011
  • : 198mm X 129mm X 15mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : June 2011
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Tony Judt
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : 909.831
  • : 256