For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"On Levin's “Animal Laborans and Homo Politicus in Hannah Arendt” (Volume 7, No. 4, November 1979)"

by Canovan, Margaret (1980)


In the November 1979 issue of Political Theory Martin Levin has accused me of misrepresenting Hannah Arendt’s views’ on the “animal laborans” by taking the notion to refer to a specific social class, namely the “working class” or “Marxian proletariat.” According to Levin, animal laborans is an abstract category that does not refer to any particular social group,* so that Arendt’s strictures upon it do not amount to “elitism.” Dr. Levin is barking up the wrong tree. I did not claim that Arendt meant the modern sociologists’ ”working class” by animal laborans, neither did I suggest that her elitism was a matter of middle-class contempt for the proletariat. But the fact is (contrary to Levin’s claims) that Arendt frequently does use the term animal laborans and its analogs to refer to particular social groups, especially in her frequent discussions of premodern societies.


Arendt, Marx, Animal Laborans, Social Class, Working Class, Social Groups, Sociology


On Arendt

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