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Radzins, Inese. Simone Weil on Labor and Spirit
2017, Journal of Religious Ethics 45 (2):291-308
Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

This essay argues that Simone Weil appropriates Marx's notion of labor as life activity in order to reposition work as the site of spirituality. Rather than locating spirituality in a religious tradition, doctrine, profession of faith, or in personal piety, Weil places it in the capacity to work. Spirit arises in the activity of living, and more specifically in laboring—in one's engagement with materiality. Utilizing Marx's distinction between living and dead labor, I show how Weil develops a critique of capital as a “force” that disrupts the individual's relation to her own work by reducing it to the mere activity of calculable “production.” Capital reduces labor to an abstraction and thereby uproots human subjectivity, on a systemic scale, from its connection to living praxis, or what Weil calls spirituality. Life itself is exchanged for a simulacrum of life. In positioning living labor as spiritual, Weil's work offers a corrective to these deadening practices.

Comment: This text provides an in-depth analysis of Simone Weil's account of and philosophy on work and labor, through the theological lens of spirituality. It therefore offers a unique take on Weil's attempt to situate work and labor as activities of central import in human life. The text might be an interesting supplement to any upper-level undergraduate or graduate level courses explore the concept and value of work, or the historical treatment of the concept in western philosophy. It would also be useful as a companion or supplemental text in courses focused on exploring Simone Weil's philosophy and thought.

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