Arendt a la Taminieux

Arendt’s account of politics is contaminated by its mimetic relation to her mentor Heidegger’s account of politics. When engaging with a locutor, there is always a region of underlying agreement assumed in order to form a ground on which to engage. In this way, even the most diametrically opposed and hating interlocutors invariably take for granted more than they disagree on. Moreover, the more they engage in dispute, the more similar they come to resemble one another. That is, the taken-for-granted world or imaginary or ‘for-the-sakes-of’ grounding their views and arguments tend to align more and more. In this way, the dispute moves towards being a more local dispute against a shared Background, rather than a dispute between different Backgrounds. This is why unionists can jump the table; and why major political parties come to exude a managerialist ethos; and why Trotskyists can mutate into rabid neo-cons.

To me it seems that the key move in Arendt’s difference with Heidegger is to unpick the way Heidegger too quickly mashes together the world of practice and activity consigning it to the realm of ‘the Same’ and then contrasting this with the higher vocation of authentic Dasein as a philosophical engagement with its own unique factical finitude and death.

Structurally Arendt mimics these relations but reverses their valence. 

First, she denies that vita activa is ‘fallen’ or lesser than vita contemplativa (theory, philosophy, prayer). She then carefully disassembles vita activa to show its internal differences—that it is not simply a mindless ’blob’ of opinion or gossip. She divides it into labour, work and action, each with their own inherent structure, values, standards and intentions. She then reassigns authenticity from the vita contemplativa to the domain of public speech and action. However, she is careful not to revert to a subjectivist account of the self; instead she posits the self as a public phenomenon, as something that is created and exists as a public thing, in the contingent unfolding of public actions and performances of speech and action within which the identity, the qui, of the participants is revealed, often unknowingly to the person themselves.

However, and perhaps this is the key move: Arendt defines action in terms of its capacity to renew the world, to change the world, to give birth to the world anew. So, whereas Heidegger and Gadamer see the renewal of the world arising from the destruction of the reified language and concepts of scholasticism, Arendt posits renewal as something that is inherent in the coming together in speech and action of the plurality within and between each new generation or social movement.

So, whereas Heidegger opposes temporality of facticity-bound Dasein to the temporality of eternity of abstract theory, Arendt invokes a different temporality again: the temporality of narrative arising from the melange of plurality and chance that creates people power and re-news the world as well as shining light on the players involved.

 

What is problematic about Arendt, the real sticking point for me, is her rejection of what Laclau calls ‘claims’, that is the injection of needs, of demands for a voice and for social justice in distribution of goods and services and ressorts pour life and good life. That is, she follows the tradition too closely in allowing the world of action to be defined against the world of need. In this way she allows the assumption of a distinction between the disinterested judgement of the Master in a world of equals and the interested contaminated need-driven cry and judgement of the Slave or private world of the Greek Household to structure her framing of political life. She insists on a sharp boundary between public on one side, and social and personal on the other. Hence her reading of feminism and Christianity as inimical to political world. (see Villa 18-19)

But this means that the only meaning of politics is the revelation of players via their stories. Here, we can definitely see the parallel with Heidegger and his concern for the authenticity of the individual.

Notice that Gadamer has an absolutely opposing stance: individuals are like flickering candles in the winds of history. He values sensus communis, community, over individuals or subjectivity. He is not obsessed with the authentic self or individuals – like Heidegger. He is more connected to Hegel’s objective spirit. [What does Arendt have to say about objective spirit?]

This is my instinct too.

But sensus communis is inherently plural, not agreement. It is a rhetorical agonistic communality, not a propositional agreement

The other issue besides sensus communis, is that of institutions, States etc. Here again this is something to ponder. Not sure what Arendt says here, but I would probably agree with her.

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About Rob McCormack
I am a retired second chance educator living in Melbourne, Australia. Theory I am interested in includes: Rhetoric, both ancient and contemporary; Post-structural discourse theory, Laclau; Halliday's systemic functional linguistic theory; Hermeneutics (esp. Gadamer); philosophy, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Derrida; 'practice theory' in social theory such as Schatzki, Bourdieu; political theory, such as Arendt, Laclau, Tully ; pedagogic theory and philosophy such as Biesta, didaktik. Praxis I am interested in include: Adult education and adult literacy; second chance education; academic discourse and writing; langauge and learning; Indigenous education.

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