What is it about?

Hannah Arendt suggests the pivotal problems of modern society to be man’s susceptibility to ideological patterns of thought and behaviour and the compulsion under which he performs labour. Her depiction of these phenomena can however be seen as rather one-dimensional. Since the redemptive concept of politics which she proposes as a kind of worldly realm for unconstrained human relationships, is based upon her fragile analyses of ideology and labour, this concept’s persuasive power is limited. Arendt’s striking powers of observation are more effective in areas where social domination is taken to the extreme, whereas in the face of basic social constraints she seems to be perplexed.

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Why is it important?

Arendt's understanding of ideology and labour is researched quite well. This could be expected since she forms her emphatic concept of politics against the background of these two phenomena. However, little attention has been given so far to the question of how she transfers a set of ideas that has been developed in the face of totalitarian governments to the democratic situation. Does her concept of politics really do justice to the social relationships of modern non-dictatorial societies? In order to approach this problem I challenge the soundness of Arendt's analysis of anti-semitism and point to her non-consideration of the power and property relations within which labour is performed.


It has been occupying my thoughts for a long time that although I consider Arendt's aspirations respectable, nevertheless her conclusions are questionable due to her methodology. In this paper I make up my mind about this perplexity.

Anna-Sophie Schönfelder
Universitat Osnabruck

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This page is a summary of: Politics contra the functionalisation of man – Hannah Arendt’s problematic investigation of ideology and labour, Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialtheorie und Philosophie, October 2018, De Gruyter, DOI: 10.1515/zksp-2018-0018.
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