Friday, July 6, 2007

The political space

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975). In The Human Condition, she compares the Greek idea of politics with her assesment of modern politics. (If you note her dates, she had ample experience with the very worst of modern politics, living through two world wars and the communist rise.)

For the Greeks, she says, politics is a science that emerges after the fact that humans are social. This seems like a no-brainer, but ever since the darling Enlightenment brought us Hobbes, Locke, and all the other brialliant bulbs of modern thought, politics has been seen as something individuals do prior to coming together socially.

That is, for the moderns, individuals human beings are isolated and self-interested. The private realm is where everything "happens," and at heart humans are the type of thing that are alone with themselves. All social interaction must be regulated by political forces.

For the Greeks, Arendt says, the family and small social structures are natural, not forced. Politics, then, is not regulating individuals who come together out of fear but rather is a particular realm of human action where humans come to gether to act in a specifically human way. It's not about laws enforcing stability, but rather about individuals and social groups coming forward into a common space to be seen, to demonstrate the great virtues, and to find immortality in their great actions.

There is truth in almost any human thought--sometimes it's more hidden than obvious, but it's interesting to consider the truth in both the modern and Greek political philosophies. Link

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