Why One of France’s ‘Most Subversive’ Philosophers Chose to Work in a Factory

Simone Weil Saw Assembly Line Labor as a Distillation of French Society’s Hierarchies and Inequities

In December 1934, Auguste Detoeuf interviewed an applicant for a job at one of his factories. Ordinarily, Detoeuf did not make hiring decisions—he was, after all, the director of Alsthom, France’s largest maker of electric equipment. Yet Detoeuf was hardly an ordinary businessman. A graduate of France’s elite engineering school, the École polytechnique, Detoeuf neither talked the talk or walked the walk of French industrialists. He dressed, as one friend sighed, like a romantic violin virtuoso, and confessed to being an intellectual manqué.

Detoeuf no more belonged behind this particular desk …

How Abolitionists Fought—and Lost—the Battle with America’s Sweet Tooth

Before Cotton Became the Symbol of American Slavery, Cane Sugar Was the Source of Oppression and Bitter Opposition

Today, land developer and businessman William Cooper is best known for founding Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But back in the 1790s, Cooper was …

To Defy a Dictator, Send in the Clowns

Protest Movements Can Wield Humor as a Weapon Against Oppressive Regimes

When Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, they brought with them a funny weapon against the guns and tear gas of the …