Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Factory Journal Analysis
Almost all the ideas important to Simone Weil (with the exception of her spiritual acceptance of Christianity)—such as her intellectual adherence to the Marxist model of social existence based on the division of labor, her insistence on the necessity for individual action, her demand for justice as a sign of social progress—inform the basic premises of “Factory Journal.” Weil had studied the works of Karl Marx with great attention, but she found that Marxism, while tracing the cause of oppression to the division of labor, fails to answer why this division of labor should necessarily turn into oppression. In 1932, Weil had visited Germany and had witnessed the rise of militant nationalism under Adolf Hitler and the failure of the German Communist Party to prevent it; in 1933, she had taken part in the famous “March of the Miners” planned by the Confédération Générale du Travail (miners’ federation) to protest against unemployment and wage cuts. Thus in 1934 Weil was philosophically attuned to a life of committed activism. It is characteristic of Weil’s thinking that she should attempt to “improve” Marx; she does so by humanizing the affliction of humiliation that wounds the worker’s psyche. Humiliation works in a twofold manner: by alienating the worker from the machine and from the product and by the deliberate suppression of solidarity and critical thinking among workers by those in power.
Worker solidarity is one way to liberate workers; yet another way would be to re-create the relationship between the worker and the machine so that the worker still has a certain synthetic part to play in its operation, instead of being relegated to the mindless, repetitive movements that are characteristic of assembly-line production. In “Factory Journal,” as well as in a later essay entitled “Factory Work” (1946), Weil foresaw the worker’s alienation as...
(The entire section is 772 words.)
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