The life process and forgettable living: Arendt and Agamben

Autumn 2010

Hannah Arendt’s low estimation of household and society in The Human Condition is ambiguously grounded in her objections to expropriation of labour, on one hand - an expropriation that she associates with the ‘life process’ - and to what she perceives as the ‘futility of mortal life’ on the other. This essay explores this tension in The Human Condition and compares it (more briefly) to related thoughts about bare life, subjectivity, and meaninglessness in Karl Marx, Giorgio Agamben and T.W. Adorno. It suggests, positively, that bare life and subjectivity alike occlude living - something different from either the life processor work and which is neither human nor bare life, bios nor zoe, vitality nor culture, and which therefore involves the toleration of meaninglessness.

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NF 71 Hannah Arendt 'After Modernity'