What Is the Current Human Condition?
In her early (1958) work on the domains of man’s activities, famously entitled The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt focused on three modes of active (as contrasted with contemplative) human life: Labor, which she defined as necessary for biological survival; work, which Arendt saw as needed to create man’s collective artificial environment; and, most important to her, action—action proper, equal to human freedom and exercised as associated activity in the political, that is, the public, sphere:Such—in the highest sense—human activity is, of course, most fundamentally endangered when, as Arendt had earlier analyzed in her Origins of Totalitarianism, ideologically stipulated inhuman “laws” of Nature or History are executed on mankind by total regimes, whose terror forces the subjects together by a “band of iron”, eradicating their capacity to act freely. Unrealistically, however, in Arendt’s understanding that capacity is already corrupted when economic or social questions—issues relating to the spheres of work and labor, in other words—intrude into “authentic” politics.
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