The World We Want: Virtue, Vice, and the Good Citizen


252 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-670-88924-5
DDC 323.6




Reviewed by Christine Hughes

Christine Hughes is a policy analyst at the Ontario Native Affairs


Kingwell, a political and cultural theorist, as well as a University of
Toronto philosophy professor, considers what it means to be a citizen in
today’s rapidly changing world. Like any good philosopher, he poses
many questions to his readers. At the heart of The World We Want is the
question “What is it to be a citizen?” Building upon ideas about
justice and civility that he advanced in his 1995 academic book, A Civil
Tongue, Kingwell looks at the consequences of economic, social,
political, technological, and cultural changes over the last two
decades. He argues that while people must work harder to become
politically responsible citizens of the world, there is a new form of
“global citizenship” available to those who take time to consider
the possibilities. It is these possibilities that are explored in his
five chapters.

Kingwell asserts that problems of globalization and cultural identity
stretch back to ancient times. In a chapter titled “Rights and
Duties,” he launches his examination of the concept of citizenship
with a dialogue between Socrates and Crito and concludes by drawing
linkages to the contemporary world of consumerism and banal culture. In
another chapter, he discusses why civility is considered the political
virtue of choice for some political theorists. The Arcades Project, an
unfinished work of German scholar Walter Benjamin, is reviewed at length
in Chapter 4. Kingwell draws his theories together and in the final
paragraph, challenges his readers to play an active role in the
“project of universal justice.”

The author notes that much of the material included in this book was
drawn and adapted from some of his lectures to diverse audiences and
articles in a wide variety of scholarly and popular publications.

To enhance the book’s readability, Kingwell chose not to interrupt
the flow of text with footnotes. Instead, he has included a
bibliographic essay that provides readers with more information on the
varied sources (from Machiavelli to Montaigne) cited in each chapter.
The book is also indexed for quick reference to topics of interest.


Kingwell, Mark., “The World We Want: Virtue, Vice, and the Good Citizen,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,