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The Self and Factory Journal Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Mar 22nd, 2021

The Self

Summary

The author of this particular reading documents some important issues about the “self” and how its power in human discourse is destroyed from the outside through constant exposure of pain, suffering, or distress, bringing annihilation or complete obliteration of an individual. The author makes it clear that individuals without a “self” may still have an identity that is condensed to a naked, vegetative egoism bordering on an excessive or exaggerated sense of self-importance or self-interest.

The author further demonstrates that an individual, who has already developed affliction, learns to develop the vital instinct, which survives all the attachments disfigured from the actual self and fastens itself to everything in the environment that can render the needed support without thinking much about issues of gratitude and justice, or even justifying the extra amount of energy that is needed to sustain the free will by which rational individuals take the measure of phenomena, objects, and other people.

The author also introduces the concept of “quasi hell on earth” to demonstrate how human injustice and affliction come into play to deprive an individual of their character and reputation and, in the process condemning him to a destitute life. Lastly, it is established in the reading that nothing can be done to revive a person when the “self” is dead; however, pure love can be used to rejuvenate the “self” in an individual when it is not dead or is only inanimate. It should be noted that awakening the “self” in the absence of pure love often leads to contempt, bitterness, and legitimate hatred.

Analysis

The article is insightful on how the “self” or the “I” in an individual can be affected and destroyed from the outside through affliction. The author demonstrates in a very graphic way that an individual with a destroyed “self” cannot function in an ethical manner due to the many weaknesses arising from the absence of the “self.” However, it is unclear how an individual without a “self” may still become a “being,” not to mention that the suggestion about an exaggerated sense of self-importance or self-interest being associated with people with no “self” and those with a naked, vegetative egoism is rather inaccurate. Some individuals with a highly-developed “self” have also been found to have a great sense of self-importance and/or self-interest.

The author also shares important information by saying that nothing can be done when the “self” is dead, but pure love can be used to rebuild or rejuvenate the “self” when it is only half-dead or inanimate. Indeed, there is rather compelling evidence demonstrating that pure love and compassion can rejuvenate the “self” of downtrodden individuals and provide them with another chance to live ethically fulfilling normal lives.

However, it should have been in order for the author to mention that there are other ways through which the “self” can be rebuilt in an individual after partial damage. For example, evidence demonstrates that spirituality and engaging in professional counseling sessions are viable means through which people can be helped to rebuild and improve their “self” after destruction through affliction.

Factory Journal

Summary

The author of this work, which was translated into English, secures a leave of absence from her teaching job to experience firsthand how unskilled women workers handle their daily chores at a local company that manufactures electrical equipment for subway cars and streetcars. Contrary to her previous predictions that factory workers should be able to tackle the difficulties of household chores comparatively easily and retaining their cheer and ability to enjoy the small pleasures that life has to offer while doing their chores, she finds herself working like a machine to meet the demands and being treated like a slave. Thus, a situation that is not only morally and physically painful but also completely dehumanizing emerges (Weil 152).

The ways in which the author depicts the organization of production as largely oppressive and discusses why the proletarian revolution is unable to have any impact due to the structure and system in production are quite notable. Because of the system of production practiced at the factory level, the author ends up not only being treated like a slave but is also “submerged in an environment in which she does not count, is given no respect,[and] is regarded as having no rights at all” (Weil 153).

This oppression brings a lot of affliction onto the author, triggered particularly by the systematic oppression and the instilling of a sense of inferiority in the oppressed, and leading to a situation where self-respect is destroyed, and social degradation is set in motion. Indeed, the author no longer feels that she has any rights, courage, or value in society, which leads to a scenario where she resigns to the oppressive political and economic system and considers herself a slave.

Analysis

This reading has very important effects on the capacity of society members to live a valuable, moral, and respectful life. As demonstrated in the earlier reading, affliction and suffering are yet shown as a major destroyer of the “self” or, in this interpretation, self-respect. The author has provided a peculiar story of her factory experiences as duly documented in the “Factory Journal.” An evaluation of social, physical, and psychological effects experienced in nearly all aspects of life, leading to a scenario that is full of pain and personal suffering, was the result.

The author also provides an ethnographic account of how the working conditions in factory settings are only meant to benefit the owners (capitalists) while demeaning, dehumanizing, and devaluing the workers disregarding their output. It is important to say that these situations are still predominant in most business settings around the world.

Overall, in this reading, the author has done an impressively good job by demonstrating how political and economic systems can play an active role in dehumanizing and discouraging a large part of the state population by exposing them to derogatory experiences that only add to their pain and affliction. Affliction kills the “self”; thus, it can be argued that a particular group of the population may be suffering from the absence of the “self,” as well as other person-oriented virtues and values due to the exposures described above.

Indeed, the author suggests that it is no longer feasible for society to build self-respect under the pressure of social abuses and that workers continuously lose their value, humanity, and dignity upon being exposed to such experiences as the one mentioned above. Consequently, the need for such experiences to be restructured to provide workers with the chance and occasion to strengthen their self-worth, esteem, and personality emerges.

Works Cited

Weil, Simone. Formative Writings 1929-94. Trans. Dorothy Tuck McFarland and Wilhelmina Van Ness. Amherst: Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Self and Factory Journal." March 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-self-and-factory-journal/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Self and Factory Journal'. 22 March.

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