February 26, 2007
Is the modern interpretation of the political an impoverished one because it eschews deliberation? Is the modern interpretation of the political further impoverished in that it restricts the scope of the political to an exclusively technological, social, and economic framework? Has politics become the administration of the population, understood as a totality of “human resources” to be preserved, enhanced, and optimized in which the language is one of security, organization, and efficiency?
The issues are explored by Frederick M. Dolan in The Paradoxical Liberty of Bio-Power:Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault on Modern Politics I will deal with Arendt.She says yes to the above questions as I would. But I'm not clear on what her argument is in The Human Condition. So let us have a look.
Dolan says that Arendt argues that:
Modernity, then, signifies a change in the object of Platonic rulership. In the modern context, politics-as-rulership applies to the society as a whole, and suppresses plurality, not in order to realize a contemplatively established Good, but rather to optimize biological life. Indeed, it is not even individual life that is targeted, but that of the species as a whole: in the final stages of this development, Arendt says, “individual life” is “submerged into the over-all life process of the species.”...The result is “socialized mankind,” a regime in which cooperation grounded in bare biological existence overwhelms “the human condition of plurality” that issues in spontaneous action. This post-political world, “in which the fact of mutual dependence for the sake of life and nothing else assumes public significance,” is sustained by an endless number of rules, imperatives, habits, prohibitions, and customs, all designed to ensure that the individual conforms to the group. (p.322)
The decisive result, Arendt concludes, is that “society, on all its levels,excludes the possibility of action.... Instead, society expects from its members a certain kind of behavior, imposing innumerable and various rules, all of which tend to normalize” its members, to make them behave, to exclude spontaneous or outstanding achievement."