The Vision

Let us not forget that we want to make the individual, and not the collectivity, the supreme value. We want to form whole men by doing away with that specialization which cripples us all. We want to give to manual labour that dignity which belongs to it of right, by giving workmen the full understanding of technical processes instead of mere mechanical training; and to provide the understanding with its proper object, by placing it in contact with the world through the medium of labour. We want to make abundantly clear the true relationships between man and nature — those relationships that are concealed, in every society based on exploitation, by “the degrading division of labour into intellectual and manual labor”. We want to give back to man, that is to say to the individual,the power which it is his proper function to exercise over nature, over tools, over socitey itself; to re-establish the importance of the workers as compared with material conditions of work; and, instead of doing away with private property, “to turn individual property into something real, by transforming the means of production… which at present serve above all to enslave and exploit labour, into mere instruments of labour freely and co-operatively preformed.

~ Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty

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3 responses to “The Vision

  • Robb Beck

    In running counter to sinews of capitalism that Weil describes, can we in good faith still leverage this critique in our so called technological age? Maybe not so much “can” but “how?” In moving away from brute and brawn and shovels to a world of data programmers plugging and sorting information into massive mainframes, would the call to “workers of the world unite” still resonate? I realize there’s the post-Marxists philosophies out there trying to address these issues. Yet can we re-incarnate the Weils, the Ruskin’s, and the Chesterton’s in this sense? Just some early Sunday thoughts…

  • Ammo

    Robb,

    The key for Weil, a key she finds in Marx, is, “the degrading division of labour into intellectual and manual labor.” This division occurs as much now as it did then, as much with white collar as with blue collar labor. The division is not between work that uses ones whole body vs. work that uses ones mind and fingers. The division is between those who plan and those you work. It’s a division between those who design and manage and those who carry out the laborious functions of work… without input into the how or the why of what they do. I think that both Weil and Marx have much to say to today’s workforce, but let us not forget that while we in the affluent sectors of the globe may have traded in our hammers and cycles for keyboards and mice, there are still those out there who mine our resources, make our clothes, and pick our food. So though the the nature of the industry we see and aspire to has become white collar this means neither that menial blue collar labor has ceased to exist nor that white collar industry is beyond the scope of a Marxist critique.

    In regards to the former of these two points, check out Jamie Smith’s most recent post: http://forsclavigera.blogspot.com/

  • Drew

    Good thoughts Ammo. This is an idea that is expanded in both her Declaration and in the Need for Roots. The difference with Marx’s dialectic is her Platonic scripting of how one receives the Good. Labor as she conceives can result in affliction since it crushes the ability to receive the Good and so, dehumanizes.

    I also think of Heidegger’s notion of “standing reserve” along these lines.

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