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Beyond Power

Simone Weil and the Notion of Authority

Desmond Avery

Hardback
Beyond Power draws on the writings of Simone Weil (b. Paris, France, 1909, d. Ashford, UK, 1943) to construct a theory of authority that challenges conventional assumptions. Avery argues that neither science nor religion nor a political mandate can provide an adequate rationale for authority. Simone Weil's electrifying insights, derived from her experience as a social activist, factory worker, and philosophy teacher, provide ways in which to think about the essential element of authority and take it into account more fully than usually seems possible. By focusing unflinchingly on what was sacred to herself and others in religion, politics, science, work, justice, and education, she achieved a kind of authority of her own. Avery devotes a chapter to each of these six subjects, as well as to an overview of the question of authority and a short account of Simone Weil's life.

Beyond Power will be ideal for students and teachers of philosophy, politics, religion, and history and the humanities. Those who admire the philosophy of Simone Weil will find a compelling overview of her work, while those interested in religious questions will find a fresh approach to thinking and talking about what makes human life meaningful. Avery offers new ways to examine the burning political, religious, and scientific issues of our time.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 210Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-2386-7 • Hardback • June 2008 • $80.00 • (£49.95)
Desmond Avery is a visiting fellow at Lincoln University.
Part 1 Introduction
Part 2 Part I. Authority Comes from the Author
Chapter 3 Chapter 1. The Notion of Authority
Chapter 4 Chapter 2. Authority in the Life and Work of Simone Weil
Chapter 5 Chapter 3. An Idea of Ultimate Authority
Part 6 Part II. The Authority of Disciplines and Institutions
Chapter 7 Chapter 4. Religion
Chapter 8 Chapter 5. Governance
Chapter 9 Chapter 6. Science
Part 10 Part III. Authority in Practice
Chapter 11 Chapter 7. Work
Chapter 12 Chapter 8. Justice
Chapter 13 Chapter 9. Education
Part 14 Conclusion
This sensitive and wide-ranging study addresses all the main areas of Weil?s formidable culture, demonstrating how, through her use of the Greek classics, Marx, the great texts of Christian piety and Eastern philosophy among other sources of inspiration in her passionate and single-minded quest for truth, her spirit soars above any narrow sectarian bias or historical contingency, making her as relevant for our troubled times as she was in the dark days through which she lived. Taking the clauses of the 'Our Father' one by one and examining Weil?s thought in their light, Avery shows convincingly how, through a spirit of prayer, the ultimate source of authority is not power, but love...
J. P. Little, St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University


This is an important and exciting book. Broad in scope and with generous depth of enquiry, it echoes the tone of its human subject, described by Camus as 'the only great spirit of our time.' It deserves to become itself the authoritative work on Simone Weil. Its great merit lies in the rich social, historical and cultural contextualization of her oeuvre which is hugely revitalized in consequence. Simone Weil's understanding of authority is reconsidered in the light of urgent contemporary concerns and vital new life breathed into it. Avery has succeeded in the daunting task of examining a comprehensive range of secondary sources, and provides both interesting, and in this election year, timely glosses on their interpretations. The magisterial strength of this book, however, lies in its response to the thoughts and words of Simone Weil herself, to which its author returns with the kind of attention she herself so brilliantly describes.
Siân Miles, University of Warwick


The book should be helpful as a general introduction to Weil's thought. Avery provides useful summaries of the principal areas of interest in Weil's writings . . . After reading the book one would have a good idea of how to proceed with one's own study of Simone Weil.
The Review of Politics


The book should be helpful.... as a general introduction to Weil's thought. Avery provides useful summaries of the principal areas of interest in Weil's writings and.... gives clear explanations of her basic approach in each area. After reading the book one would have a good idea of how to proceed with one's own study of Simone Weil.
Review Of Politics, 2009 (Vol 71)


The rich cultural knowledge of Desmond Avery has enabled him to interpret brilliantly the genius of Simone Weil. He presents persuasively her life-giving view of authority.
Gerald O'Collins, author of Salvation for All: God's Other Peoples


This sensitive and wide-ranging study addresses all the main areas of Weil’s formidable culture, demonstrating how, through her use of the Greek classics, Marx, the great texts of Christian piety and Eastern philosophy among other sources of inspiration in her passionate and single-minded quest for truth, her spirit soars above any narrow sectarian bias or historical contingency, making her as relevant for our troubled times as she was in the dark days through which she lived. Taking the clauses of the 'Our Father' one by one and examining Weil’s thought in their light, Avery shows convincingly how, through a spirit of prayer, the ultimate source of authority is not power, but love.
J. P. Little, St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University


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