Challenging Hannah Arendt's Conception of a Neutral Political Space

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Title: Challenging Hannah Arendt's Conception of a Neutral Political Space
Author: Spieler, Rebecca
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Philosophy
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 1997
Abstract: Hannah Arendt's political vision, as seen in The Human Condition,' On Revolution, "On Violence," The Jew as Pariah, and "The Crisis in Education," is in many ways inspirational and insightful, yet it involves a conception of the political realm that fails to take into account several important ways in which it is structured. This failure means that she is unaware of how her project can not succeed if those problems are not addressed. Luce Irigaray's notion of a sexuated, nonneutral discourse, which creates a masculine subject and a paralyzed and reified feminine object, is presented in The Irigaray Reader6 This essay will use Irigaray's discussion of these concerns as a springboard to look in an interesting and critical way at the feminist and social implications of Arendt's theory, in order to fill in what is missing there. By pointing out that oppressive systems are operative in, embedded in the very fabric of, this political sphere thereby rendering it profoundly masculinized, Irigaray casts doubt on whether the discourse/tradition that structures and underlies that realm is truly as neutral as Arendt supposes. In light of such considerations, Arendt's political theory needs to be revised in order to ensure that, within the public and political realm, people who manifest various differences will be able to be themselves within it. While Arendt's philosophy can be utilized to help flush out some of the problems innate to the feminist philosophy of Irigaray, in the end her theory must reconcile itself with Irigaray's description of the political realm as having significant continuities with the private realm; hence it is not just an open space into which anything can appear authentically, for it is structured in ways that a thinker such as Arendt needs to attend to more carefully.
Subject: Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975 -- Political and social views
Subject: Irigaray, Luce -- Influence -- Arendt
Subject: Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975 -- Criticism and interpretation
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Spieler, Rebecca. "Challenging Hannah Arendt's Conception of a Neutral Political Space". 1997. Available electronically from

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