For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Origins of Totalitarianism

by Arendt, H (1973)

Key Passage

What we call isolation in the political sphere, is called loneliness in the sphere of social intercourse. … isolation, though destructive of power and the capacity for action, not only leaves intact but is required for all so-called productive activities of men. Man insofar as he is homo faber tends to isolate himself with his work, that is to leave temporarily the realm of politics. Fabrication (poiesis, the making of things), as distinguished from action (praxis) on one hand and sheer labor on the other, is always performed in a certain isolation from common concerns, no matter whether the result is a piece of craftsmanship or of art. In isolation, man remains in contact with the world as the human artifice; only when the most elementary form of human creativity, which is the capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world, is destroyed, isolation becomes altogether unbearable. This can happen in a world whose chief values are dictated by labor, that is where all human activities have been transformed into laboring. Under such conditions, only the sheer effort of labor which is the effort to keep alive is left and the relationship with the world as a human artifice is broken. Isolated man who lost his place in the political realm of action is deserted by the world of things as well, if he is no longer recognized as homo faber but treated as an animal laborans whose necessary ‘metabolism with nature’ is of concern to no one (p.793)


No Keywords


The Origins of Totalitarianism [1951]



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