Between Conformity and Resistance: Essays on Politics, Culture, and the State (Theory in the World)

1960s: The Civil Rights and Black Power movements
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Psychological adaption had the most significant change for a student who has resided in the US for at least 24 months while socio-cultural adaption steadily increased over time. It can be concluded that eventually over time, the minority group will shed some of their culture's characteristic when in a new country and incorporate new culture qualities. Also, it was confirmed that the more time spent in a new country would result in becoming more accustomed to the dominate countries aspects of characteristics.

Figure 2 demonstrates as the length of time resided in the United States increase—the dominant country, the life satisfaction and socio-cultural skill increase as well—positive correlation. The journal included a study that examined a "direct measure of assimilation with a host culture and immigrants' subjective well-being. Life satisfaction rates were higher for those who had assimilated to the dominant country than those who had not assimilated since those who did incorporate the dominant language, religion, psychological aspects, etc.

The results show negative intercultural sensitivity is much greater in participants who experience "culture shock". Also, for one who has traveled to the country before pre-travel before permanently moving, they would have predetermined beliefs about the culture and their status within the country. The emotional expression for this individual includes excitement, happiness, eagerness, and euphoria.

This article addresses each theme, pre-travel, culture shock, negative cultural sensitivity and positive cultural sensitivity, their perception, emotional expression and responses, their gender and the interpretation for the responses. For example, if people are just walking on the floor with their shoes and then just lying on the bed with their shoes.

It bothers me a lot because that's not part of my culture. I found few things as a culture shock. And I mean this was one of those things. The way people speak was different. To me - so which I found it was quite interesting because we Chinese we don't do that, like when you stop someone and if you talk to strangers to China it can be considered that you want something from me - yeah.

Yes, it is a completely different experience. Between and , the United States took in roughly 24 million immigrants. The beginning of the 21st century has also marked a massive era of immigration, and sociologists are once again trying to make sense of the impacts that immigration has on society and on the immigrants themselves. Assimilation had various meanings in American sociology.

Henry Pratt Fairchild associates American assimilation with Americanization or the melting pot theory. Some scholars also believed that assimilation and acculturation were synonymous. According to a common point of view, assimilation is a "process of interpretation and fusion" from another group or person. That may include memories, behaviors and sentiments. By sharing their experiences and histories, they blend into the common cultural life.

It describes the American situation wherein despite the cultural assimilation of ethnic groups to mainstream American society, they maintained structural separation. The long history of immigration in the established gateways means that the place of immigrants in terms of class , racial , and ethnic hierarchies in the traditional gateways is more structured or established, but on the other hand, the new gateways do not have much immigration history and so the place of immigrants in terms of class, racial, and ethnic hierarchies is less defined, and immigrants may have more influence to define their position.

Secondly, the size of new gateways may influence immigrant assimilation. Having a smaller gateway may influence the level of racial segregation among immigrants and native-born people. Thirdly, the difference in institutional arrangements may influence immigrant assimilation. Traditional gateways, unlike new gateways, have many institutions set up to help immigrants such as legal aid, bureaus, social organizations. Finally, Waters and Jimenez have only speculated that those differences may influence immigrant assimilation and the way researchers that should assess immigrant assimilation.

Canada's multicultural history dates back to its European colonization in the 16th century, when French settlers, British settlers, and indigenous peoples vied for control of the region.

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Canada retains one of the largest immigrant populations in the world. The census recorded 7. In contrast to assimilation, integration aims to preserve the roots of a minority society while still allowing for smooth coexistence with the dominant. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Process in which a group or culture comes to resemble another group.

This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. Learn how and when to remove these template messages. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. This article is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic.

Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. Further information: Culture shock. A key feature of this idea is that the same applies in reverse — the other can only comprehend itself as free by being recognised as such. Through this analysis, Fichte produced a thoroughly intersubjective ontology of humans and demonstrated that freedom and self-understanding are dependent upon mutual recognition.

These ideas were developed in greater detail by Hegel. Rather, understanding ourselves as an independent self-consciousness requires the recognition of another. One must recognise oneself as mediated through the other. According to Hegel, it is through the intersubjective recognition of our freedom that right is actualised.

Rights are not instrumental to freedom; rather they are the concrete expression of it. Without recognition we could not come to realise freedom, which in turn gives rise to right. The work of Hegel consciously echoes the Aristotelian conception of humans as essentially social beings. For Hegel, recognition is the mechanism by which our existence as social beings is generated.

Therefore, our successful integration as ethical and political subjects within a particular community is dependent upon receiving and conferring appropriate forms of recognition. Such a conflict is described as a life-and-death struggle, insofar as each consciousness desires to confirm its self-existence and independence through a negation or objectification of the other. That is, it seeks to incorporate the other within its field of consciousness as an object of negation, as something which this consciousness is not, thus affirming its own unfettered existence.

Of course, the other also tries to negate this consciousness, thus generating the struggle which results in affirmation of one self-consciousness at the cost of the negation or annihilation of the other. Only in this way, Hegel observes, only by risking life, can freedom be obtained. However, there is a key moment with this struggle.

Namely, consciousness realises that it cannot simply destroy the other through incorporating it within itself, for it requires the other as a definite other in order to gain recognition. Thus, it must resist collapsing the other into itself, for to do so would also be to annihilate itself. It would be starving itself of the recognition it requires in order to be a determinate self-consciousness. This co-dependency results in mutual relations of recognition which are the condition for understanding oneself as a genuinely free being, albeit a free being which acknowledges, and thus adjusts itself, to the freedom of others.

Hegel characterises this mutuality, which cannot be coerced but be freely given and received, as being at home in the other. Such a relation with another is the condition for the phenomenological experience of freedom and right. We see now how the master-slave dialectic of recognition is inherently unstable and unsatisfying. The slave, realising that life as a slave is better than no life at all, accepts this relation of dominance and subservience.

The recognition of the slave is ultimately worthless, for it is not the recognition of a free self-consciousness, which alone can grant the recognition on another required for self-certainty of existence and freedom. For Hegel, relations of domination provide a vicious spiral of recognition. They lead nowhere but to their own destruction.

Hence recognition must always take place between equals, mediated through social institutions which can guarantee that equality and thus produce the necessary mutual relations of recognition necessary for the attainment of freedom. It is precisely this last point that recent recognition theorists have seized upon and elaborated into comprehensive discussions of justice.

However, it would be more accurate to say that Taylor awoke a general interest in the idea of recognition. His short essay provides a series of reflections and conjectures which, whilst insightful, do not constitute a full-blown theory of recognition. However, its exploratory nature and non-technical language has helped install it as the common reference point for discussions of recognition.

He identifies such a demand as present in the political activities of feminism, race movements and multiculturalists for a critical discussion of this point, see Nicholson, Our individual identity is not constructed from within and generated by each of us alone. Rather, it is through dialogue with others that we negotiate our identity. The idea that our sense of who we are is determined through our interaction with others initiates a shift from a monologic to a dialogic model of the self.

Deploying a brief historical narrative, Taylor argues that the collapse of social hierarchies, which had provided the basis for bestowing honour on certain individuals that is, those high up on the social ladder , led to the modern day notion of dignity, which rests upon universalist and egalitarian principles regarding the equal worth of all human beings. This notion of dignity lies at the core of contemporary democratic ideals, unlike the notion of honour which is, he claims, clearly incompatible with democratic culture.

However, he is quick to point out that the discovery of our authenticity is not simply a matter of introspection. Rather, it is through our interactions with others that we define who we are. Nor is there an end point to this dialogue. It continues throughout our entire lives and does not even depend upon the physical presence of a specific other for that person to influence us. Consider, for example, the way an imaginary conversation with a deceased partner might influence how we act or view ourselves. The importance of recognition lies precisely in the fact that how others see might us is a necessary step in forming an understanding of who we are.

To be recognised negatively, or misrecognised, is to be thwarted in our desire for authenticity and self-esteem. He identifies two different ways in which the idea of equal recognition has been understood. The first is a politics of equal dignity, or a politics of universalism, which aims at the equalisation of all rights and entitlements.

In this instance, all individuals are to be treated as universally the same through recognition of their common citizenship or humanity. The second formulation is the politics of difference, in which the uniqueness of each individual or group is recognised. Rousseau bitterly noted that man, having shifted from a state of self-sufficiency and simplicity to one of competition and domination that characterises modern society, has come to crave the recognition of their difference Rousseau, For Rousseau, this desire for individual distinction, achievement and recognition conflicts with a principle of equal respect.

One consequence of this politics of difference is that certain rights will be assigned to specific groups but not others. The two approaches can be summed as follows. Taylor defends a politics of difference, arguing that the concept of equal dignity often if not always derives its idea of what rights and entitlement are worth having from the perspective of the hegemonic culture, thus enforcing minority groups to conform to the expectations of dominant culture and hence relinquish their particularity.

Failure to conform will result in the minority culture being derided and ostracised by the dominant culture. Woman exists as a lack; characterised through what she does not possess or exhibit namely, male and masculine traits. This point was strongly made by Fanon , who detailed how racism infiltrates the consciousness of the oppressed, preventing psychological health through the internalisation of subjection and otherness.

Axel Honneth has produced arguably the most extensive discussion of recognition to date. He is in agreement with Taylor that recognition is essential to self-realisation. However, he draws more explicitly on Hegelian intersubjectivity in order to identify the mechanics of how this is achieved, as well as establishing the motivational and normative role recognition can play in understanding and justifying social movements. These are love, rights, and solidarity Honneth, 92ff; also Honneth , It provides a basic self-confidence, which can be shattered through physical abuse.

All three spheres of recognition are crucial to developing a positive attitude towards oneself:. For it is only due to the cumulative acquisition of basic self-confidence, of self-respect, and of self-esteem According to Honneth, the denial of recognition provides the motivational and justificatory basis for social struggles.

Specifically, it is through the emotional experiences generated by certain attitudes and actions of others towards us that we can come to feel we are being illegitimately denied social recognition. Certain emotional states, such as shame, anger and frustration, are generated by the failure of our actions.

Conversely, more positive emotional states are generated through successful action. The experience of negative emotional states can, in theory, reveal to us that an injustice is taking place namely, that we are not being given due and appropriate recognition. However, as Honneth points out, feelings of shame or anger need not indeed, do not necessarily disclose relations of disrespect ibid: What they provide is the potential for identifying the occurrence of an injustice which one is justified in opposing. The experience of disrespect is the raw material from which normatively justified social struggles can be formulated.

Presumably, disrespect in other contexts would lead to individual acts of retaliation or undirected violence, rather than coordinated resistance. This phenomenological approach to recognition thus locates the source and justification of social struggles in the experiences and expectations of recognition. Of course, as noted, it requires the further steps of a locating these experiences within a socially-generated framework of emancipatory discourse; and b the establishment of common experiences amongst individuals for these individual frustrations to develop into social struggles.

It is only through the failure of such expectations that recognition can be a motivational source, arising via negative emotional experiences.

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This assumption allows Honneth to assess societal change as a developmental process driven by moral claims arising from experiences of disrespect. Honneth is careful to specify that he is not advocating a single, substantive set of universal values and social arrangements. Here, Honneth is trying to retain a Kantian notion of respect and autonomy through identifying the necessary conditions for self-realisation and self-determination, akin to a Kantian kingdom of ends in which all individuals receive and confer recognition on one another.

Whereas there are broad areas of agreement between Honneth and Taylor, Nancy Fraser is keen to differentiate her theory of recognition from both of their respective positions. Fraser believes that this binary opposition derives from the fact that, whereas recognition seems to promote differentiation, redistribution supposedly works to eliminate it.

Individuals exist as members of a community based upon a shared horizon of meanings, norms and values. Here, individuals exist in a hierarchically-differentiated collective class system which, from the perspective of the majority class who are constituted by a lack of resources, needs abolishing. According to Fraser, both these forms of injustice are primary and co-original, meaning that economic inequality cannot be reduced to cultural misrecognition, and vice-versa.

Many social movements face this dilemma of having to balance the demand for economic equality with the insistence that their cultural specificity be met. Whereas Honneth thinks a sufficiently elaborated concept of recognition can do all the work needed for a critical theory of justice, Fraser argues that recognition is but one dimension of justice, albeit a vitally important one.

The disagreement over whether or not distribution can be made to supervene on recognition arises from the differing interpretations of recognition. Contra Honneth and Taylor, Fraser does not look to situate the injustice of misrecognition in the retardation of personal development. Addressing injustices arising from misrecognition therefore means looking at the discursive representations of identities in order to identity how certain individuals are assigned a relatively inferior social standing.

Instead, it should be conceived as an institutionalised relation of subordination. In effect, recognition is required in order to guarantee that all members of society have an equal participation in social life. Because Honneth equates recognition with self-realisation, the derivative issues of redistribution are only generated to the extent that they inhibit this personal development. For Fraser, injustice in the form of both misrecognition and maldistribution is detrimental to the extent that it inhibits participatory parity. Fraser considers two possible remedies for injustice, which transcend the redistribution-recognition divide by being applicable to both.

Certain forms of inequality, including those of race and gender, derive from the signifying effect of socio-cultural structures. Thus, the solution is not simply a matter of revaluing heterosexual, female or black identities. The proposal made by Fraser, then, is the radical restructuring of society, achieved through transformative redistribution that is, socialism and recognition cultural deconstruction. It should be noted that in her more recent work on recognition that is, Fraser ; , she resists offering any particular remedies, arguing instead that the required response to injustice will be dictated by the specific context.

In a very important discussion, Fraser and Honneth defend their respective theories of recognition see also Honneth, As noted in Section III, Fraser believes that recognition and distribution are two irreducible elements of a satisfactory theory of justice.

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This is to say, they are of equal foundational importance — the one cannot be collapsed into the other. Honneth, on the other hand, contends that issues of distribution are ultimately explained and justified through issues of recognition. He begins justifying this claim through a historical survey of political movements and unrest amongst the lower classes during the early stages of capitalism. What marked such activities was the commonly held belief that the honour and dignity of the members of the lower classes were not being adequately respected.

Any dispute regarding redistribution of wealth or resources is reducible to a claim over the social valorisation of specific group or individual traits. The division that Fraser makes between economic distribution and cultural recognition is, Honneth claims, an arbitrary and ultimately misleading one that ignores the fundamental role played by recognition in economic struggles, as well as implying that the cultural sphere of society can be understood as functioning independently of the economic sphere.

Fraser ibid: 30ff. The ideal of participatory parity gives Fraser her normative component, for it provides the basis on which different recognition claims can be judged. Such fragmentary historiography enables one to recover the lost potentials of the past in the hope that they may find actualization in the present.

Essays on Politics, Culture, and the State

It is here that aesthetic judgment joins with the retrospective judgment of the historian. At the same time, the Black Panther Party stated that black people in America and the Vietnamese people were waging a common struggle against a common enemy: the U. For Arendt, action is one of the fundamental categories of the human condition and constitutes the highest realization of the vita activa. It is not that bringing people together to discuss problems is bad. Therefore, as an action principle, one should ensure the effective uses of the scarcest resources rather than conform to some ideal version of power relations.

From Heidegger she took the idea of a deconstructive reading of the Western philosophical tradition, one that seeks to uncover the original meaning of our categories and to liberate them from the distorting incrustations of tradition. Such deconstructive hermeneutics enables one to recover those primordial experiences Urphaenomene which have been occluded or forgotten by the philosophical tradition, and thereby to recover the lost origins of our philosophical concepts and categories.

In her view it is no longer possible, after the collapse of tradition, to save the past as a whole; the task, rather, is to redeem from oblivion those elements of the past that are still able to illuminate our situation. To re-establish a linkage with the past is not an antiquarian exercise; on the contrary, without the critical reappropriation of the past our temporal horizon becomes disrupted, our experience precarious, and our identity more fragile.

Only by means of this critical reappropriation can we discover the past anew, endow it with relevance and meaning for the present, and make it a source of inspiration for the future. Against tradition Arendt sets the criterion of genuineness, against the authoritative that which is forgotten, concealed, or displaced at the margins of history. Arendt articulates her conception of modernity around a number of key features: these are world alienation , earth alienation , the rise of the social , and the victory of animal laborans.

World alienation refers to the loss of an intersubjectively constituted world of experience and action by means of which we establish our self-identity and an adequate sense of reality. Earth alienation refers to the attempt to escape from the confines of the earth; spurred by modern science and technology, we have searched for ways to overcome our earth-bound condition by setting out on the exploration of space, by attempting to recreate life under laboratory conditions, and by trying to extend our given life-span. The rise of the social refers to the expansion of the market economy from the early modern period and the ever increasing accumulation of capital and social wealth.

With the rise of the social everything has become an object of production and consumption, of acquisition and exchange; moreover, its constant expansion has resulted in the blurring of the distinction between the private and the public. The victory of animal laborans refers to the triumph of the values of labor over those of homo faber and of man as zoon politikon. All the values characteristic of the world of fabrication — permanence, stability, durability — as well as those characteristic of the world of action and speech — freedom, plurality, solidarity — are sacrificed in favor of the values of life, productivity and abundance.

Arendt identifies two main stages in the emergence of modernity: the first, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, corresponds to world alienation and the rise of the social, the second, from the beginning of the twentieth century, corresponds to earth alienation and the victory of animal laborans. She also identifies a number of causes: the discovery of America and the corresponding shrinking of the earth, the waves of expropriation started during the Reformation, the invention of the telescope challenging the adequacy of the senses, the rise of modern science and philosophy and subsequently of a conception of man as part of a process of Nature and History, and the expansion of the realm of the economy, of the production and accumulation of social wealth.

We focus attention here on two categories employed by Arendt, those of nature , and the social. With respect to the category of nature, Arendt oscillates between two contrasting accounts. According to the first account, the modern age, by elevating labor, the most natural of human activities, to the highest position within the vita activa , has brought us too close to nature.

Instead of building and preserving the human artifice and creating public spaces for action and deliberation, we are reduced to engage in the activity of sheer survival and in the production of things that are by definition perishable. According to the second account, however, the modern age is characterized by a growing artificiality, by the rejection of anything that is not man-made.

Arendt cites the fact that natural processes, including that of life itself, have been recreated artificially by means of scientific experiment, that our natural environment has been extensively transformed and in some instances entirely replaced by technology, and that we have searched for ways to overcome our natural condition as earth-bound creatures by setting out on the exploration of space and envisaging the possibility of inhabiting other planets.

All this leads to a situation where nothing around us will be a naturally given event, object, or process, but will instead be the product of our instruments and the will to refashion the world in our image. These two accounts are difficult to reconcile, since in the former we have nature intruding upon and even destroying the human artifice, while in the latter we have art techne expanding upon and replacing everything natural or merely given.

The result is to endow nature with an ambiguous status, since in the former case the victory of animal laborans indicates our subjection to natural processes, while in the latter case the expansion of scientific knowledge and of technological mastery indicates the overcoming of all natural limits. The modern world would thus appear to be too natural and too artificial, too much under the dominance of labor and the life-process of the species, as well as too much under the dominance of techne.

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With respect to the second category, that of the social, Arendt was unable to account for certain important features of the modern world. Arendt identifies the social with all those activities formerly restricted to the private sphere of the household and having to do with the necessities of life. Her claim is that, with the tremendous expansion of the economy from the end of the eighteenth century, all such activities have taken over the public realm and transformed it into a sphere for the satisfaction of our material needs.

Society has thus invaded and conquered the public realm, turning it into a function of what previously were private needs and concerns, and has thereby destroyed the boundary separating the public and the private. Arendt also claims that with the expansion of the social realm the tripartite division of human activities has been undermined to the point of becoming meaningless.

In her view, once the social realm has established its monopoly, the distinction between labor, work and action is lost, since every effort is now expended on reproducing our material conditions of existence. Obsessed with life, productivity, and consumption, we have turned into a society of laborers and jobholders who no longer appreciate the values associated with work, nor those associated with action.

I would argue, however, that it blinds her to many important issues and leads her to a series of questionable judgments. She claims that the social is the realm of labor, of biological and material necessity, of the reproduction of our condition of existence. She also claims that the rise of the social coincides with the expansion of the economy from the end of the eighteenth century. However, having identified the social with the growth of the economy in the past two centuries, Arendt cannot characterize it in terms of a subsistence model of simple reproduction Benhabib , Ch.

She is, in fact, unable to acknowledge that a modern capitalist economy constitutes a structure of power with a highly asymmetric distribution of costs and rewards. By relying on the misleading analogy of the household, she maintains that all questions pertaining to the economy are pre-political, and thus ignores the crucial question of economic power and exploitation Bernstein , Ch. Finally, by insisting on a strict separation between the private and the public, and between the social and the political, she is unable to account for the essential connection between these spheres and the struggles to redraw their boundaries.

Today many so-called private issues have become public concerns, and the struggle for justice and equal rights has extended into many spheres. By insulating the political sphere from the concerns of the social, and by maintaining a strict distinction between the public and the private, Arendt is unable to account for some of the most important achievements of modernity — the extension of justice and equal rights, and the redrawing of the boundaries between the public and the private Benhabib , Ch.

By distinguishing action praxis from fabrication poiesis , by linking it to freedom and plurality, and by showing its connection to speech and remembrance, Arendt is able to articulate a conception of politics in which questions of meaning and identity can be addressed in a fresh and original manner. Moreover, by viewing action as a mode of human togetherness, Arendt is able to develop a conception of participatory democracy which stands in direct contrast to the bureaucratized and elitist forms of politics so characteristic of the modern epoch.

Lastly, we look at the remedies for the unpredictability and irreversibility of action, namely, the power of promise and the power to forgive. For Arendt, action is one of the fundamental categories of the human condition and constitutes the highest realization of the vita activa.

Arendt analyzes the vita activa via three categories which correspond to the three fundamental activities of our being-in-the-world: labor, work, and action. Labor is the activity which is tied to the human condition of life, work the activity which is tied to the condition of worldliness, and action the activity tied to the condition of plurality.

Power and Politics in Organizational Life

For Arendt each activity is autonomous, in the sense of having its own distinctive principles and of being judged by different criteria. Labor is judged by its ability to sustain human life, to cater to our biological needs of consumption and reproduction, work is judged by its ability to build and maintain a world fit for human use, and action is judged by its ability to disclose the identity of the agent, to affirm the reality of the world, and to actualize our capacity for freedom.

Although Arendt considers the three activities of labor, work and action equally necessary to a complete human life, in the sense that each contributes in its distinctive way to the realization of our human capacities, it is clear from her writings that she takes action to be the differentia specifica of human beings, that which distinguishes them from both the life of animals who are similar to us insofar as they need to labor to sustain and reproduce themselves and the life of the gods with whom we share, intermittently, the activity of contemplation.

In this respect the categories of labor and work, while significant in themselves, must be seen as counterpoints to the category of action, helping to differentiate and highlight the place of action within the order of the vita activa. The two central features of action are freedom and plurality.

By freedom Arendt does not mean the ability to choose among a set of possible alternatives the freedom of choice so dear to the liberal tradition or the faculty of liberum arbitrium which, according to Christian doctrine, was given to us by God. Rather, by freedom Arendt means the capacity to begin, to start something new, to do the unexpected, with which all human beings are endowed by virtue of being born.

Action as the realization of freedom is therefore rooted in natality , in the fact that each birth represents a new beginning and the introduction of novelty in the world. To be sure, Arendt recognizes that all activities are in some way related to the phenomenon of natality, since both labor and work are necessary to create and preserve a world into which new human beings are constantly born. However, of the three activities, action is the one most closely connected with natality, because by acting individuals re-enact the miracle of beginning inherent in their birth.

For Arendt, the beginning that each of us represents by virtue of being born is actualized every time we act, that is, every time we begin something new. Arendt also stresses the fact that since action as beginning is rooted in natality, since it is the actualization of freedom, it carries with it the capacity to perform miracles, that is, to introduce what is totally unexpected. This character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in all beginnings … The fact that man is capable of action means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that he is able to perform what is infinitely improbable.

The favorite example for Arendt is the American Revolution, because there the act of foundation took the form of a constitution of liberty. In all these cases individual men and women had the courage to interrupt their routine activities, to step forward from their private lives in order to create a public space where freedom could appear, and to act in such a way that the memory of their deeds could become a source of inspiration for the future.

In doing so, according to Arendt, they rediscovered the truth known to the ancient Greeks that action is the supreme blessing of human life, that which bestows significance to the lives of individuals. In the book On Revolution Arendt devotes much attention to the rediscovery of this truth by those who participated in the American Revolution. In her view the Founding Fathers, although they might have pretended that they longed for private life and engaged in politics only out of a sense of duty, made clear in their letters and recollections that they had discovered unexpected delights in action and had acquired a taste for public freedom and for earning distinction among their peers.

Plurality , to which we may now turn, is the other central feature of action. For if to act means to take the initiative, to introduce the novum and the unexpected into the world, it also means that it is not something that can be done in isolation from others, that is, independently of the presence of a plurality of actors who from their different perspectives can judge the quality of what is being enacted.

In this respect action needs plurality in the same way that performance artists need an audience; without the presence and acknowledgment of others, action would cease to be a meaningful activity. Action, to the extent that it requires appearing in public, making oneself known through words and deeds, and eliciting the consent of others, can only exist in a context defined by plurality.

Arendt establishes the connection between action and plurality by means of an anthropological argument. In her view just as life is the condition that corresponds to the activity of labor and worldliness the condition that corresponds to the activity of work, so plurality is the condition that corresponds to action.

Plurality thus refers both to equality and distinction , to the fact that all human beings belong to the same species and are sufficiently alike to understand one another, but yet no two of them are ever interchangeable, since each of them is an individual endowed with a unique biography and perspective on the world. It is by virtue of plurality that each of us is capable of acting and relating to others in ways that are unique and distinctive, and in so doing of contributing to a network of actions and relationships that is infinitely complex and unpredictable.

This network of actions is what makes up the realm of human affairs, that space where individuals relate directly without the intermediary of things or matter — that is, through language. Let us examine briefly this connection between action and language. In The Human Condition Arendt stresses repeatedly that action is primarily symbolic in character and that the web of human relationships is sustained by communicative interaction HC, —9, —6, — We may formulate it as follows.

Between Conformity and Resistance : Essays on Politics, Culture, and the State

Action entails speech : by means of language we are able to articulate the meaning of our actions and to coordinate the actions of a plurality of agents. Conversely, speech entails action , not only in the sense that speech itself is a form of action, or that most acts are performed in the manner of speech, but in the sense that action is often the means whereby we check the sincerity of the speaker.

Thus, just as action without speech runs the risk of being meaningless and would be impossible to coordinate with the actions of others, so speech without action would lack one of the means by which we may confirm the veracity of the speaker. Let us now turn to an examination of the disclosing power of action and speech. In the opening section of the chapter on action in The Human Condition Arendt discusses one of its central functions, namely, the disclosure of the identity of the agent. In action and speech, she maintains, individuals reveal themselves as the unique individuals they are, disclose to the world their distinct personalities.

In labor the individuality of each person is submerged by being bound to a chain of natural necessities, to the constraints imposed by biological survival. When we engage in labor we can only show our sameness, the fact that we all belong to the human species and must attend to the needs of our bodies. In work there is more scope for individuality, in that each work of art or production bears the mark of its maker; but the maker is still subordinate to the end product, both in the sense of being guided by a model, and in the sense that the product will generally outlast the maker.

Moreover, the end product reveals little about the maker except the fact that he or she was able to make it. It does not tell us who the creator was, only that he or she had certain abilities and talents. It is thus only in action and speech, in interacting with others through words and deeds, that individuals reveal who they personally are and can affirm their unique identities.

Without the accompaniment of speech, action would lose its revelatory quality and could no longer be identified with an agent. It would lack, as it were, the conditions of ascription of agency. We have seen, then, how through action and speech individuals are able to disclose their identities, to reveal their specific uniqueness — their who — as distinct from their personal abilities and talents — their what.

However, while engaging in speech and action individuals can never be sure what kind of self they will reveal. Only retrospectively, that is, only through the stories that will arise from their deeds and performances, will their identity become fully manifest. The function of the storyteller is thus crucial not only for the preservation of the doings and sayings of actors, but also for the full disclosure of the identity of the actor.

Storytelling, or the weaving of a narrative out of the actions and pronouncements of individuals, is partly constitutive of their meaning, because it enables the retrospective articulation of their significance and import, both for the actors themselves and for the spectators. Being absorbed by their immediate aims and concerns, not aware of the full implications of their actions, actors are often not in a position to assess the true significance of their doings, or to be fully aware of their own motives and intentions.

Only when action has run a certain course, and its relationship to other actions has unfolded, can its significance be made fully manifest and be embodied in a narrative, whether of poets or historians. The fact that this narrative is temporally deferred, that it is at some distance from the events it describes, is one of the reasons why it can provide further insight into the motives and aims of the actors. Narratives can thus provide a measure of truthfulness and a greater degree of significance to the actions of individuals. But they also preserve the memory of deeds through time, and in so doing, they enable these deeds to become sources of inspiration for the future, that is, models to be imitated, and, if possible, surpassed.

One of the principal drawbacks of action, Arendt maintains, is to be extremely fragile, to be subject to the erosion of time and to forgetfulness; unlike the products of the activity of work, which acquire a measure of permanence by virtue of their sheer facticity, deeds and words do not survive their enactment unless they are remembered. Remembrance alone, the retelling of deeds as stories, can save the lives and deeds of actors from oblivion and futility. And it is precisely for this reason, Arendt points out, that the Greeks valued poetry and history so highly, because they rescued the glorious as well as the less glorious deeds of the past for the benefit of future generations HC, ff; BPF, 63— In their work the past became a repository of instruction, of actions to be emulated as well as deeds to be shunned.

Through their narratives the fragility and perishability of human action was overcome and made to outlast the lives of their doers and the limited life-span of their contemporaries. However, to be preserved, such narratives needed in turn an audience, that is, a community of hearers who became the transmitters of the deeds that had been immortalized. In other words, behind the actor stands the storyteller, but behind the storyteller stands a community of memory.

It was one of the primary functions of the polis to be precisely such a community, to preserve the words and deeds of its citizens from oblivion and the ravages of time, and thereby to leave a testament for future generations. The Greek polis , beyond making possible the sharing of words and deeds and multiplying the occasions to win immortal fame, was meant to remedy the frailty of human affairs.

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It did this by establishing a framework where action and speech could be recorded and transformed into stories, where every citizen could be a witness and thereby a potential narrator. What the polis established, then, was a space where organized remembrance could take place, and where, as a result, the mortality of actors and the fragility of human deeds could be partially overcome. The metaphor of the polis recurs constantly in the writings of Arendt. However, since it is a creation of action, this space of appearance is highly fragile and exists only when actualized through the performance of deeds or the utterance of words.

The space of appearance must be continually recreated by action; its existence is secured whenever actors gather together for the purpose of discussing and deliberating about matters of public concern, and it disappears the moment these activities cease. It is always a potential space that finds its actualization in the actions and speeches of individuals who have come together to undertake some common project. It may arise suddenly, as in the case of revolutions, or it may develop slowly out of the efforts to change some specific piece of legislation or policy.

This capacity to act in concert for a public-political purpose is what Arendt calls power. Power needs to be distinguished from strength, force, and violence CR, — Unlike strength, it is not the property of an individual, but of a plurality of actors joining together for some common political purpose. Unlike force, it is not a natural phenomenon but a human creation, the outcome of collective engagement. And unlike violence, it is based not on coercion but on consent and rational persuasion. For Arendt, power is a sui generis phenomenon, since it is a product of action and rests entirely on persuasion.

It is a product of action because it arises out of the concerted activities of a plurality of agents, and it rests on persuasion because it consists in the ability to secure the consent of others through unconstrained discussion and debate. It is actualized in all those cases where action is undertaken for communicative rather than strategic or instrumental purposes, and where speech is employed to disclose our intentions and to articulate our motives to others.

Arendt maintains that the legitimacy of power is derived from the initial getting together of people, that is, from the original pact of association that establishes a political community, and is reaffirmed whenever individuals act in concert through the medium of speech and persuasion. Beyond appealing to the past, power also relies for its continued legitimacy on the rationally binding commitments that arise out of a process of free and undistorted communication.

Because of this, power is highly independent of material factors: it is sustained not by economic, bureaucratic or military means, but by the power of common convictions that result from a process of fair and unconstrained deliberation. Power is also not something that can be relied upon at all times or accumulated and stored for future use. Rather, it exists only as a potential which is actualized when actors gather together for political action and public deliberation.

It is thus closely connected to the space of appearance, that public space which arises out of the actions and speeches of individuals. Power, then, lies at the basis of every political community and is the expression of a potential that is always available to actors. It is also the source of legitimacy of political and governmental institutions, the means whereby they are transformed and adapted to new circumstances and made to respond to the opinions and needs of the citizens.

The legitimacy of political institutions is dependent on the power, that is, the active consent of the people; and insofar as governments may be viewed as attempts to preserve power for future generations by institutionalizing it, they require for their vitality the continuing support and active involvement of all citizens. We have also emphasized the importance of narrative and remembrance, of the retrospective articulation of the meaning of action by means of storytelling and its preservation through a community of memory.

In conclusion, we examine two other features of action, namely, unpredictability and irreversibility , and their respective remedies, the power of promise and the power to forgive. Action is unpredictable because it is a manifestation of freedom, of the capacity to innovate and to alter situations by engaging in them; but also, and primarily, because it takes place within the web of human relationships, within a context defined by plurality, so that no actor can control its final outcome.