imone Weil’s distinctive amalgam of admirers — which ranges from Catholic popes to Marxist critics and includes writers as diverse as Albert Camus and T.S. Eliot–provides already a hint as to why Weil inspires many of us here at Solidarity Hall.
Famously erudite, she was a graduate of the most elite schools in France (including the renowned Lycee Henri IV). Never satisfied with mere political theorizing, she worked in a factory for a year in the 1930s to understand the reality of a worker’s day-to-day existence.
The same quality in Weil that makes her unacceptably extreme to mainstream thought or to society intellectuals like Susan Sontag, makes her a very useful starting point for those of us interested in questioning fundamentals. Weil absolutely rejected the modern age’s lowering of standards inaugurated by Hobbes, Locke, Smith and their French counterparts. For her and her kindred spirits, the striving for spiritual perfection will remain forever the natural estate of man. Money, rights, democracy and similar ‘middle values’ (as Weil called them) cannot of themselves form a human culture.
Among her other broad themes was our need for roots (also the title of one of her most influential works). Also: the centrality of labor in a well-organized culture, and the need to connect all labor with beauty, which is a religious category for Weil (discussed in her essay, Prerequisite to Dignity of Labor). Along with her skepticism about progress, especially in philosophy, but also as a technological project. Finally, the vital connection she saw between love and truth.
Simone Weil died in 1943 at the age of 34.