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The Ordinary Virtues

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The Ordinary Virtues

Moral Order in a Divided World

Harvard UP,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

What ordinary virtues unite humanity in the age of globalization and rising populism?

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  • Well Structured
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Today’s world is more interconnected, economically, than ever before, but what about human values: Are they, likewise, becoming more universal? To answer this query, historian and politician Michael Ignatieff traveled the globe, interviewing people from all walks of life, to discover the ordinary virtues that unite humanity and explore the conditions which allow them to thrive. From the melting pots of New York and Los Angeles to the shantytowns of South Africa and Myanmar, Ignatieff’s book offers a timely and intriguing analysis of morality in the age of globalization – and rising populism.


Throughout modern history, leaders have pondered whether humanity might share a common set of moral values.

In 1914, the nineteenth century American industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded the Church Peace Union, an interfaith group to further moral progress and peace throughout the world. To celebrate its centenary in 2014, the now renamed Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs embarked on the Carnegie Centennial Project to travel the world in search of a common human morality. 

In the 100 years between 1914 and 2014, numerous imperialist empires have fallen, along with the rigid social and racial hierarchies they supported. Over one hundred new nation-states have come into being and most collectivist regimes have given way to democracy – or at least authoritarianism focused on improving material prosperity. Increases in trade and improvements in technology have linked countries and peoples as never before. But does anything deeper than economic interests unite humanity today? Is there any kind of global moral operating system?

Diverse cities where the effects of globalization converge&#...

About the Author

Michael Ignatieff is a Rector and President of Central European University and former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He earned his PhD in history from Harvard University.

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