Feb. 12th, 2012
The Promise of Politics written by Hannah Arendt in the latter half of the 1950‘s sheds new light on the condition of politics around the world. Although this book might be considered out of date by some, its message has never been more true. Hannah Arendt discusses the meaning, justification, and importance of politics in the modern world. She draws on sources such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates to further her points and opinions. The section that this paper deals with is the beginning of an essay entitled Introduction into Politics, which begins on page 93. Arendt develops and discusses a sophisticated thesis that draws the reader into a thought provoking conversation about the philosophy behind politics. Arendt argues that politics is freedom expressed in the form of the “coexistence and association”(Arendt 93) of different individuals.
Arendt’s analysis of the origins of politics illuminates the deeper purpose of the political system. Her first key point is that politics represents the way in which individuals bridge their differences so that they may live in a society. “Men organize themselves politically according to certain essential commonalities found within or abstracted from an absolute chaos of differences.” (Arendt 93) This quote describes Arendt’s analysis about how politics brings people together who have so little in common. When one truly thinks about it, each of us have so many differences, and it is sometimes impossible for people to find ways to compromise or agree on what should be done. Politics does this. Politics provides the means for individuals to bridge their differences and private interests so they may come together and agree on how things will be. This process enables society to form and function smoothly.
Arendt also elaborates to her reader how politics can create individual equality and freedom. “…the world is organized in such a way that there is no place within it for the individual, and that means for anyone who is different.” (Arendt 94) The idea that there is no place for anyone who is different is a very interesting concept in Arendt’s argument. Arendt views politics as the place where everyone can go. We all belong to the political system, it is the backbone of our society. For this reason there is no individual in the system of politics, and there is truly no space for one who decides to opt out of the political system. We are all in it together. “From the very start, politics organizes those who are absolutely different with a view to their relative equality and in contradistinction to their relative differences.” (Arendt 96) Arendt stresses that when everyone is part of the political system they are equal. However, the reader must also remember that Arendt has already stated that everyone is so chaotically different. These are interesting distinctions to consider. Even though people are so different, politics is the tool that makes everyone equal. Politics provides the means for people to come together to problem solve and inevitably create freedom for all, when honored and performed in the correct way.
Arendt does not state that this is always how politics is, but it is certainly her philosophy on why politics is. “Politics, so we are told, is an absolute necessity for human life, not only for the life of society but for the individual as well.” (Arendt 115) Now these quotes and concepts become even more complex. Arendt has already told the reader that there is no place within politics for the individual, but does that mean politics does not serve the individual? The meaning of politics is freedom and its focus is on the world, but it also serves the people who engage in it. It rewards those who work together and respect the power of community, and equality.
Hannah Arendt tells the reader about the fundamental working and purpose of politics. The very title of her book: The Promise of Politics, gives the reader a sense of her feelings toward the political system. “For at the center of politics lies concern for the world, not for man—a concern in fact, for a world, however constituted, without which those who are both concerned and political would not find life worth living.” (Arendt 106) This quote dives into the more complex meaning of politics for Arendt. What does she feel politics accomplishes? Politics is the way for those of different backgrounds to come together and solve the problems of our world. Politics is a uniter and a bond that holds us together. “…the meaning of politics is freedom.” (Arendt 108) Even though Arendt wrote this book during the mid-20th century, it rings truer then ever today. The Arab Spring is about people rising up and demanding inclusion and equality through a legitimate political process. 21st century citizens do not want oligarchical and militaristic dictatorships, but rather they crave the freedom of true democracy. We must never give up on the ideals of the political system, and we must never stop using democratic politics to support and promote freedom.
-Arendt, H., & Kohn, J. (2005). The promise of politics. New York: Schocken Books