The difficulties of the notion of the People in Arendt

Although the entire history of the revolutions of the past proves without a doubt that all the attempts made to solve the social question with political means leads to terror (On Revolution, Ch 2, 6: 177)

This text was published in 1963 and written between 1959 and 1962. In other words, in the midst of welfare regimes -that Arendt recognizes and criticism of the same text. How you could argue that the attempt to solve politically the poverty, the re-distribution of wealth, ended in terror when Western Europe showed that it was not so (i.and it was possible to redistribute, to virtually eliminate poverty, without cause terror). For more that you can criticize the welfare regimes (and from different points of view as well have been), the case is that there can be by the affirmation of Arendt.

The intent of this column is to ask how it was possible for Arendt to believe and to write a phrase that was clearly false by evidence that was clear for the time in which it was written.

Arendt distinguishes three forms of the active life: Labor, work and action. And it is the first that can be associated to the world of the ‘working class’, of ‘the people’, and therefore analysis is the first place of the argument.

The work is where lives the need to reproduce one’s own life, is the activity associated with that which disappears in the act of using it: The act basic of the animal laborans is the produce the food, and the basic condition of the feed is that once the usa ceases to exist (is consumed in both senses of the word consumption). All activities that do not generate an object durable, which are under the

Which means then (1) That for Arendt, work is associated with slavery. To be free is necessary to be freed from the need involved in the work. It is a form of activity that is intrinsically a slave:

To be free meant both not to be subject to the neccessity of life or to the command of another and not to be in command oneself. It meant neither to rule nor to be ruled (The Human Condition, II, 5: 32)

The ancients reasoned the other way around and felt it necessary to possess slaves because the slavish nature of all occupations that served the needs for the maintenance of lice (The Human Condition, III, 11: 93)

The footnote immediately following is insightful: ‘to be a master of slaves is the human way to master necessity and therefore not to physin, against nature; life itself demands it”.

(2) Then, the world of freedom, and the policy then requires its separation from the world of necessity. It is possible to overcome the ancient Greek thought and think that those who undertake this activity are not necessarily enslaved, and the argument of Arendt on the labor movement is particularly clear in this respect: In the workers union was where the political space appears most clearly in the modern world

In other words, when the labor movement appeared in the publis scene, it was the only organization in which men acted and spoke qua men-and not qua members of society (The Human Condition, V, 30: 219)

The world of politics is the world of action. Now, the action is the only one of the forms of the active life that is based on the fact that they live among human beings, and that then requires plurality and the speech, the speech. Through the action creates a common world. This implies, in turn, that common world requires to be generated through the conversation -an activity inherently plural between people both as individuals (as beings capable of logos)

To be political, to live in a polis, meant that everything was decided through words and persuasion and not through force and violence (The Human Condition, II, 4: 26)

The emergence of the world of necessity, whose subject is the people, it is inherently anti-political. Work is not only apolitical, it’s anti-politics: it Is an activity that requires neither other people nor even with the world, but that is only with one’s own body in the need to continue being alive (The Human Condition, V, 30: 212). Moreover, the ideal of the animal laborans is the abundance and consumption

In effect the abundance and unlimited consumption are the ideals of the poor; they are the mirage in the mirror of misery (On Revolution, 3, p 221)

The ideals of homo faber, the fabricator of the world, which are permanence, stability, and durability, have been sacrificed to abundance, the ideal of the animal laborans (The Human Condition, III, 16: 126)

But that is an ideal that does not require the free world of the polis, where people relate to qua people. And well can turn, to eliminate and devalue the need for that freedom and that space, become enemies of freedom in public, to not allow a space. The pathos specific On the Revolution, which crosses all the final chapter of the lost treasure, is that the revolution -space in which lives the freedom of the public – has not been able to (even in the version of EE.USA, the most successful in the description of Arendt) to maintain and sustain a space for freedom and public happiness, of public virtue, of holding the space that -in fact – make them possible.

The joys of public happiness and the responsibilities for the public affairs were to be shared then by those few men of all social classes who have the taste for freedom and public may not feel “happy” without it (On Revolution, 6, 4: 463)

Here Arendt. Now, what is the point of that argument? Recall that the starting point is that this argument requires of insisting on a result that was immediately false.

A first point is related to the condition of the category of action. In Arendt, action is a different kind of active life, the higher that the work and the job. But can you deny the basis of that claim: (a) That is required to overcome the work and the work with the action, and (b) the action is a different kind of active life instead of a dimension

With regard to the first it should be mentioned that work and work form a cycle. Arendt emphasizes, in each of these activities, which are ‘incomplete’. We already explained that it is the work, and then what that requires work is that it will facilitate their activity and decrease the pain that there is. The work (The Human Condition, (IV) is the activity that generates a permanent product, and therefore is characterized by their nature discontinuous, due to the fact that is made around something thought previously, it has and creates a world of objects; and then it is characterized by see the world in terms of the chain means-ends. However, this activity faces the problem of non-meaning, if everything is a chain of means-end, what allows you to sort it all out?

This perplexity, [the lack of permanence of the purposes, always transformed into a means to another thing], inherent in all consistent utiliarinism, the philosophy of homo faber par excellence, can be diagnosed theoretically as an innate incapacity to understand the distinction between utility and meaningfulness, which we express linguistically by distinguishing ‘in order to’ and ‘for the sake of’ (The Human Condition, IV, 21: 154)

Now, the work ‘solves’ the incompleteness of the work. to give you objects that facilitate that activity, what that does is that the character ‘slave’ of it is hidden. Now, this concealment -that Arendt sees as forgetfulness – is at the same time that reality. In the world of objects generated by the job, the work effectively loses its character of curse.

But, in distinction from a slave society, where the “curse” of necessity remained vivid reality because the life of a slave testified daily to the fact that “life is slavery”, this condition is no longer fully manifest and its lack of appearance has made it much more difficult to notice and remember (The Human Condition, III, 16: 121)

At the same time, the work can also ‘fix’ the incompleteness of the work: If the reproduction of life is transformed in the order that cannot be manipulated, meaning, the empty character of the work can be resolved through the work.

This is interesting because, in Arendt, it is action that resolves the problem of meaning, out of that complete instrumentalization. And, at the same time, the action required of the job:

If the animal laborans needs the help of homo faber to ease his labor and remove his pain, and if mortals need his help to erect a home on earth, acting and speaking men need the help of homo faber in his highest capacity, that is, the help of the artist, of poets and historiographers, of monument-builders or writers, because without them the only product of their activity, the story they enact and tell, would not survive at all (The Human Condition, IV, 23: 173)

All of this breaks with the idea of a hierarchy of forms of active life. There are two possible cycles: Labor delivery meaning to work, that delivers objects to eliminate the curse of the need. Action delivery meaning to work, that delivers permanence to the action. If this is so, and most still remember that work is second to none-because you can not overcome the fact of being alive – then the action appears as superfluous. Ultimately, if the animal laborans is the condition of human life, and the homo faber is the one who builds the home that allows that life to be human (The Human Condition, III, 17:135), between the two closed the circle.

But, and with this we pass to the second point, it appears as superfluous only if we consider the action as a different kind of active life, not as a dimension of it. The work can be isolated, but in principle it can be done with others-and in doing so retrieves all of the dimensions of the action (generating a common world, to create a common world to create a ‘reality’, a ‘world’ etc). In the case of labour it is even more clear, because it generates a public world (the market, the public space of the objects).

One of the characteristics of the action that Arendt stresses, is that she can’t be ‘manufactured’: Anyone can start, but when they are created among many may not be pre-defined: The political world is not the world of homo faber , where someone creates something. It is a world that is unpredictable and irreversible, once you do something there is no way to un-do it). It can be thought that there are key differences. But it can be said that once both work as the work acquires a dimension of action -both are made with each other, and generates a common world real – they acquire those features. Not only the product did not come out as expected, but its reception was different. Again, the world of action need not be thought of as a different way of life active, but can be thought of as a dimension of any form of active life.

This is relevant because if you think of the action as something separate, as a distinct form of active life, in reality the action appears as empty. Not in the sense that it is not useful (the criticism of the homo faber makes the action), but that it is not clear what it is.

Here it is important to highlight another aspect of the action that Arendt highlights: In the action the agent will show (disclose), in it the agent is expressed and shown. Further, through the action of the agent shows that it is essentially (not in terms of their nature, but the agent is its history, and its history is constituted through the action). The action is a space of public presentation. Now, it is important to note that this feature of the action is different and is not required by the other elements mentioned by Arendt (generating a common world, irreversibility). But here is where it actually appears to be somewhat different from the work and the work: Without the disclosure of the agent in the act, action loses sti specific character and becomes one form of achievement among others (The Human Condition, V, 24: 180). Look this is the way the criterion of the action is the greatness. A greatness that is specifically complex because it is fragile, occur through the action and without generating an object, when out of the act-in-itself, and not require anything more.

The power to show that the action is not empty is to show spaces where the will of presentation of the agent, to answer ‘who am I’ by public, was present. Now, for Arendt, the answer is that that is the space of the political. What we’ll then do is criticize it. To say that (a) there is a space for the full action that is not the policy, and (b) reduced the policy to the pure action of the greatness, it is transformed into pure will of domination.

The first thing is relatively simple. What other activity displays that will show the individual? What else will you have that pure agonalidad, show to be the best, and is completely closed in itself? The sport and the execution of artistic (not artistic work: not the work of theatre, the musical work, but to do theatre, to play the score). They are also fragile, in public, that require other (because they require, in last instance, be represented). And they are also places of greatness, where they perform feats that can be incorporated into stories (and yes recorded by others are transformed into elements of our common past).

The above conclusion is clearly anti-arendtiana (I guess that would be anathema to equate the so-augusta action with the sport), the following argument may be even more radical: The politics, the place of the action, is if it is reduced to the action as a distinction in the end it boils down to domination. The polis is the place of conversation, not of strength; but of what was being discussed was about the application of force to others (Polybius already criticized as low and lacking in greatness to politicians to generate prosperity and good life among its citizens, instead of focusing on what was really great is the conquest and wealth, and he find that time the most glorious of Greek history is what we consider to be its decline, the time of the internecine wars). The greatness, in the greeks, is manifested in the ability to dominate others: The Iliad was, according to Weil, the poem of force -that is, of what makes other things; and the Iliad is the poem of the action and grandeur: where is the ‘doer of great deeds and the speaker of great words’ (The Human Condition, II, 4: 25). But the great deed par excellence is the conquest and dispossession.

The modern age, much more markedly than Christianity, has brought about-together with his glorification of labor – a tremendous degradation in the estimation of these arts [the arts of violence, of war, piracy etc] (The Human Condition, III, 17: 129)

A little before, in the same paragraph, Arendt mentions that any violence exercised in the name (except for torture) may be equal to the natural strength of the need. To achieve the freedom of action is necessary, then, to lessen the slavery of the work. And this implies in the Greek, that consistency cannot be denied, to subjugate the others. That is the action in itself in the political sphere.

Which, in reality, it is possible to obtain another conclusion: That it is politics as persuasion-among-equals and dominance-over-others, which reduces the work to slavery. The image of the work as a necessary force, and slave (the intuition behind the idea that nothing is less free than the strength of the need) is produced by the action of the ruler who creates the slave: it creates It in the moment after his great victory reduces it to the question are you willing to be my slave or die?

Outside of this is another image of the work, a fact that Arendt mentions. The work, in its fertility, and in its character of a natural relationship with the natural world, which produces another sensation:

The reward of toil and trouble lies in nature’s fertility, in the quiet confidence that he who in “toil and trouble” have you done sti part, remains a part of nature in the future of his children and his children’s children (The Human Condition, III, 14: 107)

The work can then generate contentment and satisfaction (in the pure be part of the work and play of nature), and the strength of the basic pleasures associated (and in the consumption and use of what it produces) allows you to experience the sheer bliss of being alive (The Human Condition III, 14: 106).

Even more, away from the world of the domination disappears also the idea of a work without purpose (mere incessant reproduction of the need). Arendt comments on the image of the patriarchs of the Old testament, immediately after the appointment that we have made, and as -away from the concern for the immortality of my acts which is part of the concern of the action such as deployment of yes – precisely not perceived to work as something bad or negative. The curse of the job was alien to them, precisely because it was alien to them, the action reduced to a form of presentation of self.

Which returns to the point of start and the problems that Arendt perceives in a policy aimed to solve the problems of life and the social question. Come to recognize that a policy of that mode does not end in terror, is to recognize that politics, understood in itself can only be domination and violence towards others. And that is what Arendt is resolved not to see.

Something that, in fact, does not allow you to detect something very fundamental. One of the basic features of the action is the birth rate, which with the action, something starts (The Human Condition, V, 34: 246-247). This is something basic, whether we understand action as a dimension of the active life or as a specific type of active life. But designed so any relation may have with the work, in its fertility and intrinsic:

the nature of work, which, according to the Hebrew as well as the classical tradition, was as intimately bound up with life as giving birth (The Human Condition, III, 14: 106)

Retrieve the work involves rescue it from the curse of the need, and this means not forgetting that politics, understood as a pure separate action can not be more than the pure application of violence. The Human Condition is born, in part, an examination of the work of Marx. And perhaps in the same way that Marx reversed Hegel, it is necessary to invest to Arendt to actually do not end up glorifying the pure violence.

(I quote The Human Condition of the 2nd edition of the University of Chicago Press and the Revolution from the edition of Alliance)

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