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

[Footnote 35]-Classical economics assumed that man, in so far as he is an active being, acts exclusively from self-interest and is driven by only  one  desire,  the  desire  for  acquisition.  Adam  Smith's  introduction  of  an  "invisible  hand  to  promote  an  end  which  was  no  part  of  [anybody's]  intention"  proves  that  even  this  minimum  of  action  with  its  uniform  motivation  still  contains too much unpredictable initiative for the establishment of a science. Marx developed classical economics further by substituting  group  or  class  interests  for  individual and personal interests and by reducing these class interests to two major  classes,  capitalists  and  workers,  so  that  he  was  left  with  one  conflict,  where  classical  economics  had  seen  a  multitude  of  contradictory  conflicts.  The  reason  why  the  Marxian  economic  system  is  more  consistent  and  coherent,  and  there-  fore  apparently  so  much  more  "scientific"  than  those  of  his  predecessors,  lies  primarily in the construction of "socialized man," who is even less an acting being than the "economic man" of liberal economics. (p.42)


Arendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber


The Human Condition [1958], Arendt Citations

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