Saturday, December 1, 2007

Oppression et Liberté :
Socialist Disillusion from a Former True Believer

Oppression and Liberty was published posthumously by Simone Weil in 1955. How has it stood the test of time? 52 years after it's release, how has it fared?

Is it more popular today as it was when it came out?

The book, a comparative view of political systems, trends and features, looks at socialism and its political system rivals.

A little about the book.

Simone Weil, Arthur Wills (Translator), Preface by T. S. Elliot
Routledge, reprint (2001)
(published posthumously as Oppression et Liberté in 1955)

"The only hope of socialism resides in those who have already brought about in themselves, as far as is possible in the society of today, that union between manual and intellectual labor which characterizes the society we are aiming at." Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty (1958 edition), Chapter 1, from The Columbia World of Quotations (1996)

"It would seem that man was born a slave, and that slavery is his natural condition. At the same time nothing on earth can stop man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature." Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty (1958 edition), Chapter 4, from The Columbia World of Quotations (1996)

(quoted on

In Oppression and Liberty (1955) she [Simone Weil] is concerned with the nature and possibility of individual freedom in various political and social systems, finally opting for liberalism rather than socialism. (from Pegasos website)

The French thinker Simone Weil counts as one of the leading intellectual and spiritual figures of the twentieth century. She was a legendary essayist, political philosopher and member of the French resistance, whose literary output belied her tragically short life. Most of her work was published posthumously, to widespread acclaim. Always concerned with the nature of individual freedom, Weil explores in Oppression and Liberty its political and social implications. Analysing the causes of oppression, its mechanisms and forms, she questions revolutionary responses and presents a prophetic view of a way forward. If, as she noted elsewhere, 'the future is made of the same stuff as the present', then there will always be a need to continue to listen to Simone Weil.

"...She would not accept, in particular, the Marxist vision of historical development and inevitable proletarian triumph. She understood that it was absurdly simplistic, a-historical and self-contradictory. Weil rejected the suggestion of any inexorable progress in the development of "productive forces," and found it ironic and damning that in making a "religion of productive force," Marxists seemed to share a facile optimism with their capitalist enemies...She was impatient with the suggestion that history was progressing toward some final stage in class conflict characterized by material abundance and culminating in the end of oppression....

...she did not over-argue the potential for change. She hoped at most for action that would 'encourage whatever is capable, in the sphere of politics, economics or technique, of leaving the individual here and there a certain freedom of movement amid the trammels cast around him by social organization.'

It is this emphasis on the individual and the distrust of State authority and bureaucratic elitism—an emphasis on justice, not just rights—that is among the distinctive features of Weil’s progressive outlook...." (from book review by Bob Bauer on More Soft Money Hard Law website)

Oppression and Liberty's author, Simone Weil (1909-1943), gained fame after her death for her writing. The book has had introductions by both T.S. Eliot and Albert Camus.

French philosopher, activist, and religious searcher, whose death in 1943 was hastened by starvation. Weil published during her lifetime only a few poems and articles. With her posthumous works - 16 volumes, edited by André A. Devaux and Florence de Lussy - Weil has earned a reputation as one of the most original thinkers of her era. T.S. Eliot described her as "a woman of genius, of a kind of genius akin to that of the saints."

"What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Gasoline is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict." (from The Need for Roots, 1949)

Nothing makes for a good read like the writings of a disillusioned Socialist.

Simone Weil's Oppression and Liberty is Socialist disillusion in the nutshell.

by Mondoreb
[images:coalitionsquebec &]

Oppression and Liberty
Simone Weil


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