16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Human Condition (Paperback)
This is simply one of the best books I have ever read. It's been a while since I last visted it but the analysis of consumer society in here is startling. People accused Arendt of "polis envy", such was her regard for the political structure of the Greek city state. "But they were built on slavery!" you might object, and Arendt is aware of this, but for her it was a necessary institution to allow some full citezins exercise their full rights. Without having slaves to take care of all the activites relating to the life-process (production and consumption, necessity) the citezins of the state would be bound by this cycle of unfreedom.
For Arendt, public space is where people should precisely prove their freedom from the eternal recurrance of necessity and it also provided an arena where other free men could witness (and remember) acts from thier fellow citezins that exceeded expectations. In order to create this situation, a clear public (freedom), private (necessity) devide was necessary. I seem to remember her saying something about the "gulf that every citezin stepped across each morning as they left thier home" and how the immensity of this act was unimaginable today. Her conception of consumer society is that it involves the socialising of the "life process" - instead of being kept behind closed doors as the "biological" inheritance that freemen had to transcend, it was now the motor of society...you went out to work in order to earn enough to survive and so on. Although this might be an advance from a society founded on slavery in someways, it was responsible for a general banalisation as nothing escaped and transcended this cycle. There was a generalised condition of slavery as the concept of "freedom" was whittled down. On this point her thought is very reminiscent of the Situationists.
This is the overarching narrative I best recall from the book - but it is full of fascinating insites and elaboration on this theme. This is certainly Arendt's most original work.