Feminism

You have to check out Hannah Arendt’s work, particularly with regard to labor.

The following is from:

i. Labor: Humanity as Animal Laborans
Labor is that activity which corresponds to the biological processes and necessities of human existence, the practices which are necessary for the maintenance of life itself. Labor is distinguished by its never-ending character; it creates nothing of permanence, its efforts are quickly consumed, and must therefore be perpetually renewed so as to sustain life. In this aspect of its existence humanity is closest to the animals and so, in a significant sense, the least human (“What men [sic] share with all other forms of animal life was not considered to be human”). Indeed, Arendt refers to humanity in this mode as animal laborans. Because the activity of labor is commanded by necessity, the human being as laborer is the equivalent of the slave; labor is characterized by unfreedom. Arendt argues that it is precisely the recognition of labor as contrary to freedom, and thus to what is distinctively human, which underlay the institution of slavery amongst the ancient Greeks; it was the attempt to exclude labor from the conditions of human life. In view of this characterization of labor, it is unsurprising that Arendt is highly critical of Marx’s elevation of animal laborans to a position of primacy in his vision of the highest ends of human existence. Drawing on the Aristotelian distinction of the oikos (the private realm of the household) from the polis (the public realm of the political community), Arendt argues that matters of labor, economy and the like properly belong to the former, not the latter. The emergence of necessary labor , the private concerns of the oikos, into the public sphere (what Arendt calls “the rise of the social”) has for her the effect of destroying the properly political by subordinating the public realm of human freedom to the concerns mere animal necessity. The prioritization of the economic which has attended the rise of capitalism has for Arendt all but eclipsed the possibilities of meaningful political agency and the pursuit of higher ends which should be the proper concern of public life.

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Comments

  • Leslie Sipat  On April 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    “Arendt argues that it is precisely the recognition of labor as contrary to freedom, and thus to what is distinctively human, which underlay the institution of slavery amongst the ancient Greeks; it was the attempt to exclude labor from the conditions of human life.”

    I wonder if humans were put on Earth for a specific purpose. I don’t mean it in a religious context, but is there something that we’re suppose to do that defines us as human beings? I’ve always found myself (and others) to do things by our we want to and society. The society could also take form in the way of culture. We become individuals by what is around us. If that was taken away, how and who would we become? Helpless or just the same?

    • Benjamin johnson  On December 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm

      It seems to me that labor exists only for survival. Once man became good at this (surviving individually,) necessity to keep alive ones offspring becomes pressingly important. Perhaps in this fashion the need for labor to go ‘polis’. As for the economic status of our labor, we might do well to remember that the soul purpose of our labor is for the betterness of our survival. (not to be confused with betterness of our leasure time) And so I find myself confronted: What do I gain from the fruits of my labor that better serves me and my potential offspring?

      certainly not videogames for one.. nor my new cool hat. If I have placed my labor twords a bottle of sugerry pepsi, or my new stylish brand hat, have I not just waisted that energy on something that does not ensure survival? perhaps I am a slave with my labor after all.
      bj

  • Martha T.  On January 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    If we were merely laboring just for survival at one point, like all other animals, then the fact that “to labor or not to labor” is no longer an issue of survival means that our lives today may have lost an element of meaning since earlier times. We aren’t off hunting and gathering our own food and running for our lives from the mega fauna any more, life is much less labor-intensive these days.

    What does this mean? That our population has boomed in numbers that may have not been able to survive otherwise? These are not exactly “survival of the fittest” conditions that we live our everyday industrialized lives in.

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