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.
It is interesting to note that the distinctions between skilled and unskilled and between intellectual and manual work play no role in either classical political economy or in Marx's work. Compared with the productivity of labor, they are indeed of secondary importance. Every activity requires a certain amount of skill, the activity of cleaning and cooking no less than the writing of a book or the building of a house. The distinction does not apply to different activities but notes only certain stages and qualities within each of them. It could acquire a certain importance through the modem division of labor, where tasks formerly assigned to the young and inexperienced were frozen into lifelong occupations. But this consequence of the division of labor, where one activity is divided into so many minute parts that each specialized performer needs but a minimum of skill, tends to abolish skilled labor altogether, as Marx rightly predicted. Its result is that what is bought and sold in the labor market is not individual skill but "labor power," of which each living human being should possess approximately the same amount. Moreover, since unskilled work is a con- tradiction in terms, the distinction itself is valid only for the laboring activity, and the attempt to use it as a major frame of reference already indicates that the distinction between labor and work has been abandoned in favor of labor. (p.89)
KeywordsArendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber
ThemesThe Human Condition , Arendt Citations
Links to Reference
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