Hannah Arendt: The risks of the public realm

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 12 (2):203-223 (2009)
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Abstract

In this paper I evaluate the theoretical and normative validity of Arendt's idea of a public sphere. My discussion is organised under three related headings. First, an exploration of the theme of ‘plurality’ in Arendt's work. This is connected, second, with a distinctive account of the role of ‘representation’ in political life. Third, the relation between ethics and politics, and the particular normativity of Arendt's concept of politics. Finally, I go on to a consideration of how Arendt's scheme of plurality and public political life draw our attention to the themes of political capacity and resistance, risk and public encounter, and an account of the frictional, indeed rebarbative, nature of politics. The aim of the paper is to make clear that these themes remain significant for current debates about participatory deficits and about standards of public conduct.

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