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.
The reason why this distinction [between labor and work] should have been overlooked in ancient times and its significance remained unexplored seems obvious enough. Contempt for laboring, originally arising out of a passionate striving for freedom from necessity and a no less passionate impatience with every effort that left no trace, no monument, no great work worthy of remembrance, spread with the increasing demands of polls life upon the time of the citizens and its insistence on their abstention (skhole) from all but political activities, until it covered everything that demanded an effort. Earlier political custom, prior to the full development of the city-state, merely distinguished between slaves, vanquished enemies (dmoes or douloi), who were carried off to the victor's household with other loot where as household inmates (oiketai or familiares) they slaved for their own and their master's life, and the demiourgoi, the workmen of the people at large, who moved freely outside the private realm and within the public. A later time even changed the name for these artisans, whom Solon had still described as sons of Athena and Hephaestus, and called them banausoi, that is, men whose chief interest is their craft and not the market place. It is only from the late fifth century onward that the polls began to classify occupations according to the amount of effort required, so that Aristotle called those occupations the meanest "in which the body is most deteriorated." Although he refused to admit banausoi to citizenship, he would have accepted shepherds and painters (but neither peasants nor sculptors). (p.81)
KeywordsArendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber
ThemesThe Human Condition , Arendt Citations
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