Description: For many readers, Hannah Arendt's The Human Conditon (1958) is, for better or worse, one of the founding texts of the post-Marxist turn to an austere, rarefied notion of "the political" detached from concrete social life, which celebrates "action" for its own sake while denigrating instrumental "work" and embodied "labor." This lecture, part of a revisionist interpretation of The Human Condition, reconsiders the meaning of Arendt's concept of labor; its significance in the structure of her work; its relation to her accounts of nature, necessity, and embodiment; and its connections to Arendt's critique of not only of Marx—with whom she also had powerful and neglected affinities—but also of Locke and the tradition of classical political economy.
Bio: Associate Professor Patchen Markell has wide-ranging interests in contemporary political and social theory and the history of political thought. He is especially interested in the disparate theoretical traditions that trace their roots back to Kant, Hegel, and Marx; in the political thought of Greek and Roman antiquity, as reflected in literature as well as philosophy, and its reception by later thinkers; in 19th and 20th century American political thought, especially on the Left; in the history of the intellectual self-understandings of political theorists inside and outside the discipline of political science; and in several areas of 20th-century and contemporary theory and philosophy that cut across the distinction between "continental" and "Anglo-American," including feminist and queer theory, ethics, aesthetics, and the philosophy of language. Recent publications include "Arendt's Work: On the Architecture of The Human Condition" in College Literature (2011); "The Insufficiency of Non-Domination," in Political Theory (2008); and "The Potential and the Actual: Mead, Honneth, and the 'I'," in Recognition and Power, (Cambridge, 2007).
(Photo by Robert Kozloff/The University of Chicago)