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  contempt  for  labor  in  ancient  theory  and  its  glorification  in  modern theory both take their bearing from the subjective attitude or activity of the laborer, mistrusting his painful effort or praising his  productivity.  The  subjectivity  of  the  approach  may  be  more  obvious in the distinction between easy and hard work, but we saw that at least in the case of Marx—who, as the greatest of modern labor theorists, necessarily provides a kind of touchstone in these discussions—labor's  productivity  is  measured  and  gauged  against  the  requirements  of  the  life  process  for  its  own  reproduction;  it  resides in the potential surplus inherent in human labor power, not in  the  quality  or  character  of  the  things  it  produces. (p.93)


Arendt, Technology, Modernity, Animal Laborans, Homo Faber


The Human Condition [1958], Arendt Citations

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