In this book, Benjamin P. Davis demonstrates how Simone Weil’s Marxism challenges current neoliberal understandings of the self and of human rights. Explaining her related critiques of colonialism and of political parties, it presents Weil as a twentieth-century political philosopher who anticipated and critically responded to the most contemporary political theory.
Simone Weil’s short life (1909–1943) is best understood as deeply invested in and engaged with the world around her, one she knew she would leave behind sooner rather than later if she continued to take risks on the side of the oppressed.
In this important and timely book, Davis presents Simone Weil first and foremost as a political philosopher. To do so, he places Weil’s political writings in conversation with feminist philosophy, decolonial philosophy, aesthetic theory, human rights discourse, and Marxism. Against the backdrop of Weil’s commitments, Davis reads Weil explicitly into debates in contemporary Critical Theory. Davis argues that in the battles of today, we urgently need to reconnect with Simone Weil’s ethical and political imagination, which offers a critique of oppression as part of a deeper attention to the world.
In this moving account of Simone Weil’s political thought, Benjamin Davis merges world history and personal testimony, theory and living, brain and heart. He shows that one’s scholarship and one’s life cannot be separated easily.
— Christy Wampole, Princeton University
About the Author
Benjamin P. Davis is a postdoctoral fellow in ethics at the University of Toronto. Davis’s scholarship is in the areas of human rights, Decolonial Theory, and Caribbean Philosophy. He has articles published or forthcoming in The CLR James Journal, The Journal of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, and Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. He is also Vice President of the American Weil Society.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 15, 2023 / 184 pp) (link here).
S. Weil’s relationship to Marxism is paradoxical because it unveils a loyalty to Marx in spite of ruptures and renunciations of the Marxist theory. S. Weil’s ties to Marxism seem discontinuous because after having adopted certain revolutionary ideas during her first years of political activism she criticizes Marx in the 30’s and ends up seemingly abandoning him in the last part of her life. This path, however, far from revealing the slow and inexorable disappearance of Marx’s concepts, rather, demonstrates the persistence and metamorphoses in S. Weil’s philosophy. We suggest then, that a criticism of the revolution followed by a kind of Christianity developed in the wake of a year spent in the factory, constitute S. Weil’s own special manner of being Marxist, even though Marxism seems to have become useless to her.
Les Etudes Philosophiques, vol. 82, no. 3, pp. 207-222
in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 185-206
Simone Weil had an ambivalent attitude toward Marx. While she thought that the young Marx’s celebration of labor had “lyrical accents,” she ultimately believed that Marx had neglected his own insights, embracing a blind worship of mechanization and a theory of history and revolution that was insufficiently attentive to the material conditions of workers. Marx, in her view, was insufficiently materialist and excessively wedded to a hierarchical model of science that maintained the domination of management. Weil and Marx’s attitudes toward the dignity of labor and the necessary conditions for socialism are analyzed. The most significant cleavage between them is ultimately due to the differing manner in which they conceive of the relationship between thought and action. Through this comparison, the philosophical underpinnings of the two radically different conceptions of labor and its dignity as a human activity are explained.
The Review of Politics, vol. 74, no. 1, pp. 87-107
Simone Weil ― philosopher, trade union militant, factory worker ― developed a penetrating critique of Marxism and a powerful political philosophy which serves an alternative both to liberalism and to Marxism. In A Truer Liberty, originally published in 1989, Blum and Seidler show how Simone Weil’s philosophy sought to place political action on a firmly moral basis. The dignity of the manual worker became the standard for political institutions and movements. Weil criticized Marxism for its confidence in progress and revolution and its attendant illusory belief that history is on the side of the proletariat.
Blum and Seidler relate Weil’s work to influential trends in political philosophy today, from analytic Marxism to central traditions within liberal thought. The authors stress the importance of Weil’s work for understanding liberation theology, Catholic radicalism, and, more generally, social movements against oppression which are closely tied to religion and spirituality.
New York: Routledge Revivals, 2010
in White, George, ed., Simone Weil: Interpretations of a Life, Amherst, MA: pp. 111-136
Arthur Wills and John Petrie, trans., Routledge & Kegan Paul Archive, Routledge Classics, Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa Company.