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

Perhaps the clearest indication that society constitutes the public organization of the life process itself may be found in the fact that in  a  relatively  short  time  the  new  social  realm  transformed  all  modern  communities  into  societies  of  laborers  and  jobholders;  in  other words, they became at once centered around the one activity necessary  to  sustain  life.  (To  have  a  society  of  laborers,  it  is  of  course  not  necessary  that  every  member  actually  be  a  laborer  or  worker—not  even  the  emancipation  of  the  working  class  and  the  enormous  potential  power  which  majority  rule  accords  to  it  are  decisive  here;—but  only  that  all  members  consider  whatever  they  do primarily as a way to sustain their own lives and those of their families.) Society is the form in which the fact of mutual dependence  for  the  sake  of  life  and  nothing  else  assumes  public  significance  and  where  the  activities  connected  with  sheer  survival  are  permitted to appear in public. (p.46)


Arendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber


The Human Condition [1958], Arendt Citations

Links to Reference



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