On the Abolition of All Political Parties.pdf
An NYRB Classics Original
A brilliant woman who was a study in fiercely maintained contradictions, a star student who went to work on a factory line, a Jewish convert to Catholicism who insisted on refusing baptism, Simone Weil is one of the most intransigent and taxing of spiritual masters, always willing to push her thinking—and us—one step beyond the apparently reasonable in pursuit of the one truth, the one good. She asks hard questions and avoids easy answers. In this essay—now in English for the first time—she challenges the foundation of the modern liberal political order, making an argument that will have particular resonance in present-day America. Examining the dynamic of power and propaganda caused by party spirit, the increasing disregard for truth in favor of opinion, and the consequent corruption of education, journalism, and art, Weil proposes that politics can only begin where the party spirit comes to an end.
This volume also reprints an admiring portrait of Weil by the Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz and an essay about Weil’s friendship with Albert Camus by the translator Simon Leys.
“At a time when the distrust and disenchantment Americans feel with politics runs deeper than the Mariana Trench, Weil’s essay ‘On the Abolition of All Political Parties’ would no doubt be a best seller.” —Robert Zaretsky, from “Recalling the Apostle of Nonpartisanship,” The New York Times
“What makes her thought so special, so bracing and so strange, is its combination of philosophical rigour and spiritual compass...Only a saint could withstand the pressure to conform to the prefabricated morality of the political realm; only a genius could formulate an idea outside the ‘for’ or ‘against’ thinking so long inculcated by party politics that it has become a kind of ‘intellectual leprosy.’ The tone and texture of this vivid editorial, however, renews a certainty that Weil was both.” —The Australian
“Weil’s writing is unusual and compelling, in part, because it is both quite strictly rational and eccentrically spiritual. Her argumentation is so compact, so holistic, each sentence and paragraph building methodically on its predecessor, that trying to précis her is probably futile. To omit anything from a summary of her writing is to short-change her. She writes modestly and without flair, but her words all but radiate moral and intellectual conviction.” —Australian Book Review
Simone Weil (1909–1943) was one of the first female graduates of the École Normale Supérieure. A Socialist, she volunteered to fight against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. In 1938, a mystical vision led her to convert to Roman Catholicism, though she refused the sacrament of baptism. She fled to the United States in 1942, where, in solidarity with the people of occupied France, she drastically limited her intake of food, so hastening her early death from tuberculosis. War and the Iliad by Weil and Rachel Despaloff, and translated by Mary McCarthy, is published by NYRB Classics.
Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004) was born in Szetejnie, Lithuania. Over the course of his long, prolific career he published works in many genres, including criticism, fiction, memoir, and poetry. He was a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1980 received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Simon Leys is the pen name of Pierre Ryckmans, who was born in Belgium and in 1970 settled in Australia. He taught Chinese literature at the Australian National University and was a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Sydney. Leys’s writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, Le Monde, and other periodicals. Among his books are The Hall of Uselessness (NYRB Classics), The Death of Napoleon (forthcoming from NYRB Classics in spring 2015), Other People’s Thoughts, and The Wreck of the Batavia & Prosper. His many awards include the Prix Renaudot, the Prix Femina, the Prix Guizot, and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.