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Bernard E. Harcourt | Factory Work: Simone Weil & Immersive Philosophical Praxis

The philosophical method that Simone Weil pioneered—constantly confronting critique and praxis—can serve as a model, an exemplar, what we might call her “immersive philosophical praxis.” Troubled by the living conditions of factory workers, Weil requested a leave of absence from teaching and went to work as a factory worker at three different factories in Paris, including a Renault plant, for almost six months in 1934-1935. From that experience, Weil observed first hand how cooperation could infuse the modern factory. Reading Simone Weil’s “Factory Journal” brought back to mind my own experience in the factory. I have never written about or spoken about these memories publicly; but reading Weil’s journal from her time working in the Alsthom and Renault factories in 1934-35 reminded me of the time that I spent working in a graphite factory in Chedde, France during the summer of 1981. I had gone there expecting to have a political experience, but I came away from it as a human experience [continue reading here…].