The Factory

A report by Agentur, within the framework of the research project The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts.



On three occasions the French philosopher Simone Weil takes a leave of absence from her work as a teacher in order to engage in political and philosophical practice. In 1932 she travels to Berlin to report from the elections that will result in Hitler’s rise to power. In 1936 she travels to Catalonia to join an anarchist unit in the Spanish civil war. In between, during the academic year of 1934–35, she takes up employment as an unqualified factory worker at Alsthom and Renault in Paris. Weil rents a room in vicinity of the factories, which manufacture car parts and electrical equipment for trams, and enters into one of the most exposed classes of society: that of unqualified female factory workers.

Agentur’s report The Factory draws on the journal that Simone Weil wrote during her time as a factory worker. It is a text where detailed accounts of piecework fees, minor mishaps, and calculated metal part production rates, are interspersed with shorter reflections on an increasingly slave-like existence. From having regarded the working place as a site for political subjectivation, Weil comes to experience a repression that does not “give rise to a revolt as a direct reaction, but to subordination.” Factory Journal is not “establishing literature” in the strict sense of the term, where the author takes up employment in order to agitate for improved labor conditions. Instead, Factory Journal is the result of an attempt to think philosophically about the conditions of factory work, with the body at stake.

Agentur’s report The Factory draws on Weil’s Factory Journal, which is now published in selection and translation by Martin Högström. Among other things, the report takes the form of an issue of the magazine Tydningen, edited in collaboration with Agentur. Readings from the issue and a conversation with the magazine’s editors, will be broadcast at Radio Cyklopen on Friday April 16, 8 pm. Connect your loudspeakers!

Alongside the translation of a selection from Simone Weil’s Factory Journal, based on the disposition of the text in the critical French edition, the issue contains six newly written contributions, which comment upon, think with, and think against Weil’s text: Burcu Sahin keeps a diary over her reading of Weil; Emma Kihl links Weil to Zora Neale Hurston and Pablo Neruda; Martin Högström establishes a factory conglomerate; the French Simone Weil-expert Nadia Taïbi concludes that the diary is to the story what the factory is to work; Kim West considers how montage aggregates without reducing the many to one; and the editorial board of Tydningen becomes a body entering the factory.

Thank you to Éditions Gallimard and our collaborating partners.

Image: Christoffer Paues, Trea nr 4 för folkfronterna, 2021.