For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Human Condition

by Arendt, Hannah (2013)


A work of striking originality bursting with unexpected insights, The Human Condition is in many respects more relevant now than when it first appeared in 1958. In her study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then—diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions—continue to confront us today. This new edition, published to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of its original publication, contains an improved and expanded index and a new introduction by noted Arendt scholar Margaret Canovan which incisively analyzes the book's argument and examines its present relevance. A classic in political and social theory, The Human Condition is a work that has proved both timeless and perpetually timely. Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was one of the leading social theorists in the United States. Her Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy and Love and Saint Augustine are also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Key Passage

This destructive, devouring aspect of the laboring activity, to be sure, is visible only from the standpoint of the world and in distinction from work, which does not prepare matter for incorporation but  changes  it  into  material  in  order  to  work  upon  it  and  use  the  finished  product.  From  the  viewpoint  of  nature,  it  is  work  rather  than labor that is destructive, since the work process takes matter out  of  nature's  hands  without  giving  it  back  to  her  in  the  swift  course of the natural metabolism of the living body. (p.100)


Arendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber


The Human Condition [1958], Arendt Citations

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