Ethics and Creativity in the Political Thought of Simone Weil and Albert Camus

Author: LeBlanc, John Randolph
This work of political theory traces, for the first time in a book-length work, the critical development of the idea of creativity in politics through the intellectual relationship of Simone Weil and Albert Camus. Assessing their separate but complementary attempts to bring aesthetic considerations of beauty and order to bear on an ethical conception of political life, the book calls into question both a purely aestheticized picture of reality and postmodern tendency to see reality as a discontinuous discourses by emphasizing that which Weil and Camus believed the activities of labor and art share in common: the capacity and obligation to transform our perspective while respecting our physical and metaphysical limits.


“On the surface, the pairing of Camus and Weil is startling. The existentialist and the mystic, as each has been characterized respectively, seem to have little in common. The virtue of LeBlanc’s study is that he deconstructs these limiting labels, offering an examination that reveals the nuances of the thought of each of these key intellectuals. He reveals as much in exploring their differences as in comparing their common concerns….The core of the book’s argument is the centrality of work and art to Weil’s and Camus’s contribution to political theory…..a superb piece of critical thinking. This is a rich and learned work that demonstrates a grounded knowledge of political theory from the Greeks forward, even as it works in an interdisciplinary way with literature. Le Blanc skillfully combines postmodern concerns about materiality, creativity, and borders with classical concerns about work, structure, and rationality….LeBlanc’s is a provocative argument that sounds, with a strong and clear voice, in an on-going provocative argument about art, the polis, and justice. He reveals Camus and Weil in the matrix of concerns by which they have been understood; then, he repositions and relocates them, thereby shedding new light on both thinkers, making their work live vitally, informing our contemporary concerns. This work is risky, and well done.” – Professor Carolyn Jones, Assistant Dean, University of Georgia

“In the final analysis LeBlanc, with penetrating insight and skilful precision, erases any doubts about the extreme influence Weil had on Camus or that substantial correlations exist between the visions they offered. To his credit as a scholar and as a writer, LeBlanc’s artistic approach to writing evidences virtues of style, empathy and grace which Camus and Weil commend….most readers will find themselves unprepared for the overall sense of dis-ease that publicized scholarly study into the correlation between the writing of two seemingly disparate twentieth-century thinkers, long since, dead, elicits. By far, this constitutes the greatest and most important contribution of the text….LeBlanc forces his readers to question whether we, the heirs of the twenty-first century, have escaped the ‘icy pandemonium’ envisioned by Weil or the ‘absurd’ work experienced by Camus.” – Dr. R. Stephen Krebbs, Senior Lecturere, University of Texas at Tyler

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. Knowing, Totality, and Politics: The Context of Politics, Epistemological Response; Weil – Decreation and Knowing; Camus – Methodical Doubt and Lucidity
2. Power and Human Being: Weil –Power and Oppression; Camus and the Limits of Power
3. Force, Agency, Abstraction, and the ‘Other’: Agency and Responsibility – “The Force that Kills….”; Abstraction and Ethic of Positive Force
4. Work as Denial of the Creative: Marx, Work, Slavery, and Revolt; Artisanship and the Creative Reconception of Work
5. Artistic Creation and Political Ethics: Weil’s Political Artist – Beauty and Political Vision; Camus’s Creative Politics – Beauty and Rebellion
6. Home and the Integrity of the Individual: Weil – The Impersonal and Ethics; Camus – The Indomitable Men; Counter-Collectivity; Weil – Rootedness and the Problem of Patriotism; Camus – The Complexities of Home
7. Reconciling Freedom and Justice: Weil – Justice and Consent; Camus – The Style of Freedom
8. Conclusion - Sources and Possibilities of Creative Political Existence: Rational Character of Absolutist Rebellion; Response of Creative Politics; Creative Politics – Recognition of the Other
Bibliography; Index