The Political Philosophy of Hannah Arendt by Maurizio Passerin d'Entrèves

By Maurizio Passerin d'Entrèves

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42 Let us then turn to a brief account of the latter. In the opening section of The Human Condition Arendt lays out the conditions, the activities, and the spaces of the vita activa. The conditions she identifies are life, natality, mortality, plurality, worldliness, and the earth. The activities are labor, work, and action. 43 Conditions, activities, and spaces are interrelated: thus life itself is the condition that corresponds to the activity of labor, worldliness the condition that corresponds to the activity of work, plurality the condition that corresponds to action.

In her view the rise of the social has enabled activities connected to the necessities of life to predominate to the point where the central task of government has become that of steering the economy for the purpose of greater productivity and expanded consumption. Moreover, the exclusive preoccupation with economic matters has resulted in the destruction of the public sphere, where freedom and action could appear, and in the enforcement of predictable patterns of behavior, for every individual is now expected to conform to the dictates of economic necessity.

And what permitted this to happen was precisely the central position that the concept of process assumed with the emergence of modernity. As Arendt points out: It deprived man as maker and builder of those fixed and permanent standards and measurements which, prior to the modern age, have always served him as guides for his doing and criteria for his judgment . . 72 Submerged in the overall process of nature and later, with the rise of the historical sciences, of history, man lost all contact with the permanent and durable features of the world, and with the objects and standards that previously governed his activities.

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