Le titre original anglais et le titre adopté par la traduction française, par leur généralité, ne permettent pas de savoir que ce livre est l'une des plus importantes réflexions qu'on puisse lire aujourd'hui sur l'idée de travail. A la lumière d'une distinction magistrale entre le travail, l'oeuvre et l'action, Hannah Arendt parcourt l'histoire sociale et culturelle de l'Occident, pour caractériser l'époque moderne comme l'avènement d'une société de "travailleurs": des individus dont la raison de vivre est le travail, mais un travail largement vidé de son sens. C'est là un ouvrage de première importance, à recommander aux philosophes qui ne l'auraient pas déjà lu, aux historiens, qui y trouveront des perspectives immensément stimulantes, et plus généralement à toutes celles et à tous ceux qui souhaitent être autre chose que des rouages de l'économie.
C'est un livre qui reste, sinon incontournable, du moins à lire. Quelques idées intéressantes mais un développement ou une perspective générale qui l'est moins. La condition humaine mérite aujourd'hui une nouvelle approche en ces temps de dévastation...
I read it before, and I must say that it is a must, not only for sociologists and economists, but also for everyone working in the public domain, or working on public space (geographers, planners, engineers etc.).
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53 internautes sur 55 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Great for Contemporary Philosophy courses in Phenomenology, Politics, and Ethics16 février 2006
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This book is extraordinarily accessible and thought-provoking for undergraduate students. I have used it in my course on twentieth-century women philosophers. Arendt, without citing Husserl or Heidegger, enacts what I would call a phenomenology of action. That is, she examines the experience of the vita activa (or life of action) by describing it on its own terms. For Arendt, Marx and Smith were wrong to say that human life is fundamentally about labor or about skilled work. Human life is not mostly for or about the consumption of commodities and entrenching one's family ties. Rather, human life is about establishing a public, political realm that emulates (but does not simply attempt to reproduce) the Greek polis. Humanity is about opening up a space for meaning and for evanescent but important co-creation of what counts as a good life.
For Arendt, action is fragile, frail, unpredictable, and irreversible. Action appreciates the differences between humans within the outlines of a nation, for example, and action does not simply attempt to compel others to yield to a single, sovereign will. Action calls those who participate in true politics to realize the sense of 'e pluribus unum' and to make sure that the plurality or 'pluribus' is not simply a fading memory in the face of the One.
To make her point, Arendt delves into Judeo-Christian scriptures, as well as the history of philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Marx, and Nietzsche), attempting to reconcile a desire for shared power with a need for mutual forgiveness. Students respond well to the nexus of issues that Arendt raises, especially to the idea that 'radical evil' cannot be (but that most ordinary transgressions must be) forgiven.
Arendt helps students prepare for more texts in 20th Century philosophy, especially those by Edith Stein (On the Problem of Empathy), Simone de Beauvoir (Ethics of Ambiguity), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (Phenomenology of Perception). Her discussion of action and intersubjectivity is essentially a dialogue with Husserl and Heidgger, and to me this should show her as not only discussing but also enacting respect and forgiveness (respectively).
28 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A gift to humanity15 octobre 2003
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It's hard to give a summary of this book, which touches on so many issues. In her introduction, Margaret Canovan notes that many academic critics, at the time of the book's first publication in 1958, found Arendt's argument "beneath refutation." The book is indeed something of a long essay in form and is not immediately "falsifiable" or arguable in the sense that most narrow academic texts are. Canovan also notes that many readers were thrown by Arendt's ongoing gesture (my words) of explaining contemporary social life in the vocubulary of Ancient Greek thought. In intellectual-history terms, this move of Arendt's is no surprise. She was a student of Heidegger's; many Continental thinkers fell under his spell. (Potential readers of "The Human Condition" might want to contrast it with "The Embers and the Stars" by Erazim Kohak, who also constructs a philosophy out of the etymologies of Greek words, but not of social life, but of the environment and nature.) In short, Arendt's book is interesting reading for anyone involved in the world of work. Her categories of "labor," "work," and "action" provide an interesting way of thinking about society. A back-cover blurb from poet W. H. Auden talks about "The Human Condition" as "one of those books that seem to have been written especially for me." I would go further and recommend Arendt to any artist or budding artist or anyone who has ever seen themselves as being of an artistic temperament. Arendt provides a philosophical view of the artist in society, as opposed to a lyrical view, which is what one might find in, say, Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." Arendt's vision is more realistic. A wonderful book!
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What does it mean to be human?21 mars 2012
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Arendt's book is a masterpiece of modern philosophy. Like any masterpiece, especially of philosophy, and even more especially of modern philosophy, this mistakes it very difficult to summarize. In this book, she draws on the history of Western thought from the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans through to Marx and Nietzsche to diagnose, as the title puts it, "the human condition." Nearly every page is filled with insight into what it means to be human. She moves swiftly through the ages, introducing us to the ideas that have shaped our modern way of life and our way of viewing ourselves. And she finally ends with where we are at and why a reevaluation of our own humanity is now more pressing than ever (and now even more pressing than when Arendt wrote the book): our worst fears have been realized. Man has been simultaneously reduced to the state of an animal - a biological machine of no lasting worth - and elevated to the position of a god - capable of destroying worlds. What are we to do now? I recommend that everyone read this book - and ponder ever word deeply.
29 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A new possibility for social action and entrepreneurism21 juillet 1999
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Hannah Arendt makes the case that what distinguishes human beings is that they are constantly making new beginnings. This leads her to theories of social action that have implications for our self esteem, our "making of ourselves" and how we influence and participate in social action. She reveals the implications of this inherent tendency to "make new beginnings" in the uncertainty of outcomes of our action. What we start we cannot know the outcome of beforehand. That is, in significant part, because those who come along after we start something will add or change with their own capacity for making new beginnings. This says we need social attributes of foregiveness. She also develops the importance of promising in a culture so that we can create some certainty by this social action. She is writing about social action and involvement in the broad social life. But she could as easily be writing about entrepreneurship and corporate life or any any other social activity. A stimulating book indeed!
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What it is that We are Doing12 février 2008
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Arendt begins her opus magnum with a proposal: she states that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 (similar to Vaclav Havel's proposal of the moon landing) has hearkened in a new age of humanity. Following this proposal is one of the most mysterious but rewarding books of the 20th century, in my humble opinion. I first encountered "The Human Condition" in an undergraduate class regarding the post-modern community. To this day, I still have not completely digested this work. Her objective, in her own words, is to determine "... what it is that we are doing", and her choice of a goal is challenging considering what is to follow. Situating herself between a Greek model of society and a Marxist interpretation of labor, Arendt calls into question our ideas of progress, technology, and even forgiveness, and aims a withering critique at the subjective personality of the post-modern world. I won't go into a broad summary of her points to convince you to read it, but instead implore the reader of this review to see for themselves what Arendt is doing. Some will give up on this book after a few pages, calling it semantical nonsense. Yet for those who forge a path through Arendt's intelligent interpretation of history will come out on the other side with a new appreciation for the way in which they live their lives, participate in this thing we call "work", and interact with the human community. I can't stress enough how much this book means to me.