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

The  work  of  our  hands,  as  distinguished  from  the  labor  of  our  bodies—homofaber who makes and literally "works upon" as distinguished from the animal laborans which labors and "mixes with" —fabricates  the  sheer  unending  variety  of  things  whose  sum  total  constitutes  the  human  artifice.  They  are  mostly,  but  not  exclusively,  objects  for  use  and  they  possess  the  durability  Locke  needed for the establishment of property, the "value" Adam Smith needed  for  the  exchange  market,  and  they  bear  testimony  to  productivity,  which  Marx  believed  to  be  the  test  of  human  nature.  Their proper use does not cause them to disappear and they give the human artifice the stability and solidity without which it could not be relied upon to house the unstable and mortal creature which is man. (p.136)


Arendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber


The Human Condition [1958], Arendt Citations

Links to Reference



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