Guide The Public Realm and the Public Self: The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt

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  1. Hannah Arendt (1906—1975)
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  3. The Public Realm and the Public Self – WLU Press
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  5. 2. Agency in Arendt

However, this enables Arendt to introduce a conception of freedom suitable to an age without such religious, metaphysical, or natural foundations — one that is self-grounding within a political space of appearances rather than grounded in an invisible sphere of divine or metaphysical laws. Her notion of freedom is one that is not based on a notion of the will that masters itself or directs its actions from pre-determined principles, whether metaphysical or religious or based on reason or nature, nor is it grounded in a notion of political sovereignty, where a ruler crafts laws which subjects obey.

Hannah Arendt (1906—1975)

This actualization of our individuality remains opaque to each of us, as individual actors. However, through political action, we can assert our human dignity as we confront this givenness as well as when we encounter the contingencies of our historical situations. If one of the ontological conditions of the political space of appearances is that of plurality, the other one is that of natality, as a spontaneous beginning, and the capacity to initiate or give birth to something new and unprecedented into a world that is otherwise characterized by natural or historical processes, chains of causes and effects, and normalizing routines.

Thus, individuality is dependent upon the witnessing of others, and political freedom is relational. This is another way in which the political realm is also a spiritual realm. Although plurality is also a condition of the public sphere, individuation occurs within that public sphere as actors perform in front of spectators who are characterized by both their equality and distinction.

This public realm and its freedom are fragile because they can only be sustained by the renewal of actions and judgments within the sphere. Through these examples of inspiring principles, it becomes evident that some principles might sustain freedom within the public sphere better than others. They are exhibited in the actions themselves, and, thus, they too must be repeated in narratives to inspire future actions, and in those future actions themselves, in order to sustain their role in the public space.

The challenge is guaranteeing that citizens of every stripe will participate in the everyday practice of democracy.

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The platform resists the terminology of party, instead emphasizing its openness to people without prior political expertise. Since she wrote On Revolution in , Arendt's theory of council democracy has been swept beneath the carpet.

Scholars and journalists instead prefer to focus on the more internally consistent arc of her famous work on totalitarianism. Yet her argument for council democracy was prescient. Rather, it was to diagnose the problems that still afflict representative democracy today. We use cookies to enhance your experience. Dismiss this message or find out more. Forgot your password?

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  • The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt!
  • The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt?

Sign up here for discounts and quicker purchasing. Hettie O'Brien 20 November Radicalising democracy: How Hannah Arendt's legacy endures in Barcelona In an era in which public trust in political institutions is faltering, could the legacy of Hannah Arendt offer a new departure for democracy? Tagged political theory. Publication was a basic right and the removal of publication grounds for rebellion. To a certain extent Arendt would argue that this should not matter to artists, who work in isolation, their eye upon the eidos , the inner shape according to which their work is fabricated.

But even in the Arendtian conception of the artist the question of worldlessness, the lack of a shared, open space of display maintained between individuals, arises.

The Public Realm and the Public Self – WLU Press

Where does one bring the work when it is finished? How can it be shown so that others will, not only see it, but engage with it? Where is that place of display where appearance matters? A social realist painting produced in a worldless state, according to party diktats, in many respects needs no such display: if it has already put in place the requirements for a work of art as specified by the relevant office of the state, it is beyond judgement, it has fulfilled its function in the overall process of the moving social organism.

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It is consciously meaningless. The same danger arises with a heavily administrated national artistic culture: to get funding certain forms must be filled out, the fulfillment of certain criteria must be promised. To get continued funding the finished works must be seen to correspond to that promise: noone need judge along the way certainly it would not make sense to put arts administrators in the position of judges.

Tahrir Square. In my experience the absence of this space has been generally accepted and internalised by art students. I had the good fortune to be part of a project based around this predicament of the artist, the graduating artist in particular, by the Liverpool art-group Static.

2. Agency in Arendt

Each of the latter had to review randomly picked samples of the graduate show in a very small textual space. A group meeting between the reviewers and reviewees was then arranged at which, once the initial, understandable nervousness of the students was overcome, negative reviews led to confrontations.

These took on interesting shapes: a particularly outraged student questioned the very right of any individual to set themselves up in authority by judging.


This struck most of the other students as naive: of course, once the work goes into the outside world, it will be judged. This struck me as being a defensive position, adopted in the face of what was felt to be a hostile environment. Either your work must be eminently sellable; or you must get to know the right people and learn how to speak their language and promote yourself; or you must become an expert at filling out forms and producing the kind of work that conforms to the criteria of accountabability anticipated by those forms.

All art is public , was the maxim I came away with — the problem was how to achieve a properly public space for this dimension of the artwork to be liberated. Looking at the outcomes of the public spatial projects undertaken by young artists it was clear that mere placement in what went by the name of public spaces was not enough — the openness of the public realm, as Arendt attested, was something achieved and maintained, it was made open by a constant practice of judgement.

Projection onto the biggest billboard in the centre of the biggest city meant nothing if not within a culture of judgement, which would lead to the work, if it was judged to be worthy of it, being remembered, discussed and preserved. Steel building over the legal height.

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Private property concerns, such as matters of health and safety, could be used to legalise the eviction of the protesters. In London the protesters found themselves, under duress from the police, having to fall back anachronistically on the role and customs of the medieval Church: a truly free space, one on which one could gather publically, could be found only on the grounds of St. The relatively recent since the late nineties?

Meanwhile, popular revolution in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, seemed to constitute an unadulterated model of political action.

Presenting themselves, at the risk of extreme violence, in Tahrir Square, a sufficiently large open area at the centre of Cairo, a cross-section of the citizenry had successfully made their demand for the end of tyrannical government. According to the majority of reports and editorials, the revolution had not occurred on Tahrir Square, but on Facebook, the social media website. If these political agents were of any interest, in fact, it was as a new market for the goods supporting western lifestyles: they were a category of marketing, a demographic profile. The Arendtian resonances are obvious.

Both are fundamentally concerned with the public realm and with its survival or reestablisment.