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

While  tools  and  instruments,  designed  to  produce  more  and  something altogether different from their mere use, are of secondary importance for laboring, the same is not true for the other great principle in the human labor process, the division of labor. Division of  labor  indeed  grows  directly  out  of  the  laboring  process  and  should not be mistaken for the apparently similar principle of specialization which prevails in working processes and with which it is  usually  equated.  Specialization  of  work  and  division  of  labor  have in common only the general principle of organization, which itself  has  nothing  to  do  with  either  work  or  labor  but  owes  its  origin  to  the  strictly  political  sphere  of  life,  to  the  fact  of  man's  capacity to act and to act together and in concert. Only within the framework  of  political  organization,  where  men  not  merely  live,  but act, together, can specialization of work and division of labor take place. (p.123)


Arendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber


The Human Condition [1958], Arendt Citations

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