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It's hard to think of a more generally admirable person who is associated with a worse idea than Simone Weil and the notion of getting rid of political parties, but perhaps it's just a case misapplying what makes one admirable to a completely different field of life. Her search for the truth about God and the Universe is what she is revered for, even talked about for sainthood. But in applying this devotion to "truth" in the political sphere she badly misapprehended what it takes to govern ourselves.

A politics which holds that anyone who deviates from my truth is unacceptable is first a recipe for the complete atomization of man and then an avenue for simple dominance by the strongest, since the rest of us would be unable to band together in opposition. The classical formulation of republican liberty is what allows us to escape this sorry "freedom": it holds that:
Action regulated by law is free...not when the law is accepted voluntarily, or when it corresponds to the desires of the citizens, but when the law is not arbitrary, that is, when it respects universal norms (when it applies to all individuals or to all members of the group in question), aspires to the public good, and for this reason protects the will of the citizens from the constant danger of constraint imposed by individuals and therefore renders the will fully autonomous.
Thus, it does not matter whether the nation I live in institutes my truth about farm subsidies or public schools, what matters is that the entire citizenry lives by and is governed by a universal set of laws which it has participated in adopting. Having once accepted that my truth will not prevail, I am then able to band together with generally like-minded people I will have discrete differences with--even some major ones--in order to choose governors and pass laws that I will usually prefer. We all end up living in a society where every single one of our preferences will not prevail, but we are held together by the fact that we were able to advocate for our ideas, that our fellow citizens chose otherwise, and, most importantly, having chose they then bound themselves by that choice, not just me. We thereby achieve not truth, but justice and fairness. And that suffices.

The fortuitous discovery of such democracy in action has been that there are two broad parties, one of the right, which prioritizes freedom, and one of the left, which prioritizes security. These two broad groupings do indeed splinter in some nations, particularly those unfortunate enough to have parliamentary systems, but even there the splintered parties tend to band together in recognizable coalitions of left and right. Often the splinters are little more than cults of personality and the loss of the figurehood results in them gravitating back to the main party--see under Ross Perot.

On the other hand, there are times when some constituency within the main parties may be so alienated that it is appropriate for them to leave permanently, but this is really reserved to those ideologies that actually oppose republican government. Genuine Communists can no more fit within the liberal democratic left than Nativists/Racists can within the conservative right. But we have always seen that when forced to compete in the marketplace of democratic politics those who oppose its very existence can not attract majorities. In the healthiest societies, if a candidate who advocates such an ideology is accidentally nominated enough voters will cross party lines to guarantee his defeat--see David Duke in LA and Donald Trump in both '16 and '20. This salutary effect is possible precisely because we are used to compromising in politics in the way that Weil can not imagine. A mind so rigid that it can not tolerate voting for Joe Biden because he is not one's perfect avatar at the cost of helping elect a genuinely evil opponent is not worthy of the rest of Weil's thought.


Grade: (F)


See also:

Simone Weil Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Simone Weil
    -ETEXT: On the Abolition of All Political Partie (libcom)
    -BOOK SITE: ON THE ABOLITION OF ALL POLITICAL PARTIES by Simone Weil, a new translation from the French and with an introduction by Simon Leys, with a biographical essay by Czeslaw Milosz (New York Review of Books)
    -American Weil Society
    -ENTRY: Simone Weil (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    -ENTRY: Simone Weil (1909—1943) (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
    -ETEXT: Simone Weil, interpretations of a life (Internet Archive)
    -ESSAY: Demystifying the Magic Word (Simone Weil, Lapham's Quarterly)
    -VIDEO: The Philosophy Of Simone Weil With Eric O. Springsted
    -PODCAST: Ep. 225: Simone Weil on War and Oppression (Part One) (Mark Linsenmayer, September 9, 2019, Partially Examined Life)
    -PODCAST: Ep. 225: Simone Weil on War and Oppression (Part Two) (Mark Linsenmayer, 9/16/19, Partially Examined Life)
    -PODCAST: Simone Weil: Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Admired by Albert Camus and Iris Murdoch, she achieved a great deal in her short life. (In Our Time, BBC4, 11/15/12)
    -ESSAY: The Revelations of Simone Weil: Like Alexei Navalny, she embodied her ideals despite the personal cost. (Megan Dent, Feb 25, 2024, The Dispatch)
    -ESSAY: The Decreationist: Simone Weil’s thoughts on the unmaking of the self (Robert Zaretsky, August 24, 2023, American Scholar)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil On The Beach (Michael Abraham-Fiallos, 9/12/21, 3Quarks)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil’s Conservatism: The 20th century anarchist philosopher and mystic could point the way forward for today’s right. (ROBERT ZARETSKY, MAY 25, 2021, Slate)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil for Americans (Christy Wampole, 4/26/21, LA Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: The subversive philosophy of Simone Weil: Her family called her Antigone, her classmates “the categorical imperative in skirts”—but Simone Weil was a profoundly influential thinker (Max Norman, April 11, 2021, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil’s Radical Conception of Attention: Robert Zaretsky on the Philosophy of Negative Effort (Robert Zaretsky, March 9, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: The Anti-Politics of Simone Weil (Conor Cruise O'Brien, MAY 12, 1977, NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: AT LARGE AND AT SMALL: Loving and Hating Simone Weil (FRANCINE DU PLESSIX GRAY, SUMMER 2001, The American Scholar)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil's Last Journey (Terry Tastard, April 09, 2001, America)
    -ESSAY: Should we still read Simone Weil?: A Christian anarchist who gave up a privileged existence to work in factories, Weil remains, on the centenary of her birth, an enigma (Heather McRobie, 3 Feb 2009, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: This Day in Jewish History, 1943 'God Isn't Dead, He's Silent': Simone Weil Dies, Very Young: Affliction as love? Simone Weil died at just 34, only after which would the world learn of her extraordinary insights following her conversion to Christianity (Nettanel Slyomovics, 23.08.2015, Ha'aretz)
    -ESSAY: The Leftist Political P olitical Parties in Light of Simone Weil's Criticism:: The Workers' Party Case (Alexandre Andrade Martins, Marquette)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil’s Metaxu: Interrogating Truth (Christopher Peyton Miller, Union Penumbra)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil, Friend of Job: Confronting the Beauty of the Terror of our Existence (Mark Larrimore, Dec 9, 2016, The New School)
    -ESSAY: A Radical Cure: Hannah Arendt & Simone Weil on the Need for Roots: Scott Remer thinks we arendt happy without a community and considers the complete reconstruction of the modern world to be well worth weil. (Scott Remer, Philosophy Now)
    -ESSAY: Saint Simone: Simone Weil and Revolutionary Politics (Lisabeth During, 10/27/16, Public Seminar)
    -THESIS: The Developmental Stages of Simone Weil’s Political Philosophy: From Pacifism to a Justification of Force (Mr Ian J.D. Baker)
    -ESSAY: Simone Weil: Art and the Artist Under God (Bradford Cook, 1953, Yale French Studies)
    -ESSAY: Great European Lives: Simone Weil ( 29 August 2017, The New European)
    -DISSERTATION: At the Threshold with Simone Weil: A Political Theory of Migration and Refuge (David L. G. Rice, Department of Political Science, Duke University)
    -ESSAY: Strange and intelligent: Estranged but not alienated, devout but not obedient, philosophical but not a systematiser, Simone Weil defies conventions (Christy Wampole, Aeon)
    -ESSAY: Who Was Simone Weil? (Laurie Gagne, MAY 25, 2018, Plough)
    -ESSAY: Interpreting Simone Weil: Presence and Absence in Attention (Ann Pirruccello, Jan., 1995, Philosophy East and West)
    -ESSAY: The Need for Roots brought home the modern era's disconnection with the past and the loss of community: Having recently moved to a Himalayan village, I felt Simone Weil's focus on uprootedness spoke directly to me (Pankaj Mishra, 8/18/13, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Prophetic Mysticism (Alex Nava, Center for Christian Ethics)
    -ESSAY: Untimely Meditations on the Need for Roots: Imagining a Culture of Human Need in Nietzsche and Simone Weil (Jake Abell, Honors Thesis; Baylor)
    -ESSAY: Third Parties, Political Purity, and “Throwing Away Your Votes”: Lessons for 2020 from the election of 1844 (DANIEL N. GULLOTTA, JULY 27, 2020, The Bulwark)
    -ARCHIVES: Linked bibliography for the SEP article "Simone Weil" by A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone and Benjamin P. Davis (Phil Papers)
    -ARCHIVES: simone weil (Medium)
    -ARCHIVES: simone weil (Kirkus)
    -ARCHIVES: "Weil, Simone, 1909-1943" (Internet Archives)
    -ARCHIVES: Simone Weil (America)
    -ARCHIVES: Simone Weil (Australian Broadcasting Corp)
    -ARCHIVES: Weil (New Criterion)
    -ARCHIVES: Simone Weil (NYRB)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties by Simone Weil (Jan-Werner Mueller, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Adam Kirsch, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (MARIA POPOVA, Brain Pickings)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Lucian Stone, Philosophical Investigations)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Guy Patrick Cunningham, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (E. Jane Doering, Common Knowledge)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Robert Zaretsky, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Mark Devenney,
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Ana Schwartz, Cleaver)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Andrew Nikiforuk,
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Robert Zaretsky, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (John Pistelli)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Nathan Schneider, America)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Trip Starkey, Medium)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Ronald K.L. Collins, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Robert Zaretsky, Real Clear World)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Sam Popowich, Red Librarian)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Stephen Webb, Insights)
    -REVIEW: of On the Abolition of All Political Parties (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil: Interpretations of a Life George Abbott White, ed. (FREDERICK C. STERN, Democracy Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Simone Weil (Brenna Moore, America)
    -REVIEW: of Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us by Simone Weil (Emina Melonic, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Selected Essays by Simone Weil, translated by Richard Rees (Susan Sontag, NYRB)
    -REVIEW: of On Science, Necessity and the Love of God by Simone Weil, translated by Richard Rees (Malcolm Mugridge, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (Martin Andic, Philosophy Now)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (Emily Johns, Peace News)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (Laura Miller, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (Laura Downs, French Politics, Culture & Society)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (jillian Becker, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (John Banville, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (Patrice Higonnet, NYRB)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil by Francine du Plessix Gray (kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Weil Conjectures by Karen Olsson (Lara Feigel, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Weil Conjectures (Ronald K.L. Collins, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Simone Weil BY PALLE YOURGRAU (David P. Goldman, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of SIMONE WEIL: A Modern Pilgrimage BY ROBERT COLES (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of UTOPIAN PESSIMIST: The Life and Thought of Simone Weil BY DAVID MCLELLAN (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Subversive Simone Weil by Robert Zaretsky (erika bachiochi, Law & Liberty)
-REVIEW: of The Year Of Our Lord 1943 by Alan Jacobs (Kevin Spinale, America)

Book-related and General Links:

“The plan of our party,” as it crystallized in Burke’s own mind, was actually a fresh conception of party that could apply the wedge of Wilkes’s popularity as a lever for reform within the parameters of the existing constitution and raise the standard of liberty while preserving property rights and a restricted electoral system. This was a vision of a new patriot party designed to provide, through honorable parliamentary opposition and within the existing constitutional arrangement, a conduit from people to legislative. The whole apparatus was to be set in motion by an essential infusion of virtue.

[...] The problem, Burke explains, is not the wisdom or ignorance of the people, but the character of those who are most successful in harnessing its potential for political action: “It is unfortunately but too true; that whoever takes up any thing which has long been the Subject of publick discontent must expect to find mixed and confounded with a great deal of the dross and dirt of popular passion, popular prejudice; and with a great deal of the ignorance of the vulgar, into which will insinuate itself a great deal of the evil designs of wicked and seditious men and make a strange sort of compound enough to disgust some and frighten others—but we must not be too nice for our Duty [my italics].”

This brings us to the second predominant area. Burke is imagining here a party, or an organized association of individuals, that can by nature of its composition both diffuse and focus policy at the same time: a patriot party of a distinctive nature, shaped by minds themselves molded by principles antecedent to political calculation. (Whereas bad men combine, the good associate.) It is a difficult, almost paradoxical conception in many ways, but achievable if party is envisioned as a sort of reservoir of wisdom and talent, operating at a longer measure of time than the current of specific political circumstances, and providing a pool for the slow mixing of new, active ambition with established landed power.

Its particularly patriot nature resides not only in its goals but also in its composition, which rests on the quality of character developed primarily outside the political system, in the earlier and more fundamental experiences of social interaction and negotiation. This is “men not measures,” but it is also a tart, double inversion of that Patriot term canted by certain of Burke’s contemporaries, such as Pitt the Elder. In the sphere of political activity and social concord, it urges us both to believe in the superiority of character over theory and to doubt the superiority of individual genius over the common performance of duty. If it is the “Business of the wise and good, to seperate [sic], what the weak or wicked have confounded,” then we find ourselves having recourse to virtues both defined and refined in the pre-political realms of association—of friendship, simply stated—that transcend, precisely because they precede, particular political goals or principles.

Such a virtuous association, institutionalized, would also require a regulated but more porous delineation of social boundaries than would be found in faction. But was it feasible? Burke’s own example suggested that it was so, and he famously drew upon his own self-identity as a Ciceronian novus homo to promote a combination of “active” ambition and the more rooted, “sluggish” prerogative of the landed interest within the Rockingham Whig connection. A party so comprised would enjoy a shared social inheritance and memory—a complex historical imagination or tradition that would support concord and order, at least to the point when fissures in those relationships rendered the uncoerced performance of mutual duties in the community impossible.

As a mediating body, then, a patriot party would fit the role played by the Church in Burke’s narrative of the formation of resistance to Angevin rule under King John and the shaping of Magna Carta. And it would itself, mutatis mutandis, be energized by the “chivalric” ideal of the “gentleman,” with manners and virtuous dispositions rooted in pre-political, parochial locations and informed by the sluggish grind of real, lived experience in the hierarchy of neighborhood or local community. As he wrote in 1770, crises in the body politic were an admonition to all citizens “so to be patriots, as not to forget we are gentlemen.”

All this is to emphasize how, in Burke’s patriot mind, the chief threat to peace and liberty lay in a demagoguery for which the end was almost inevitably an accelerating propulsion to greater, immediate radicalization. Ironically, the threat had increased with the growth of parliamentary power, Burke indicates, in his speech on Parliamentary Incapacitation: “Since the Revolution at least—the power of the?.?.?.?state nearly melted down into this house [of Commons].” As such, it opened the door to Burke’s worst nightmare: “I am by opinion, principle, Constitution,” he had written earlier, “an hater of violence and innovation.” And he explained those words thus: “My Ideas of Liberty have been always very much tempered and chastened; they have been pitched a key lower than I think is common, because I am afraid of myself [my italics]”—a haunting phrase that found an echo in his Letter to a Noble Lord, when he wrote, in the closing years of his life, that a “more dreadful calamity cannot arise out of hell to scourge mankind” than when man throws off “the fear of man.”