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Labour, Politics and Emancipation, Arendt and the Historical Materialist Tradition

Labour, Politics and Emancipation, Arendt and the Historical Materialist Tradition

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Published by fusionulle
This is a Ph.D. thesis. In it I examine the concept of labour as it occurs in the tradition of Historical Materialism.
The way in which labour is defined, the position it has, and the role it plays within the tradition has major consequences for the political philosophy of Historical Materialism. Chapter 1 deals with Marx, chapter 2, opening the opposition to Historical Materialism, with Hannah Arendt, who I consider to be very underestimated in terms of the social ontology that she presents in 'The Human Condition'. Chapter 3 returns to Historical Materialism with the early publications of Jürgen Habermas (particularly his 'Theory of Communicative Action'). I discuss the merits and demerits of his position. In order to round off the tradition, chapter 4 turns the current neo-Marxists Hardt, Negri and Lazzarato. Chapter 5 offers a final discussion.
Ulrich Mühe ©2010
This is a Ph.D. thesis. In it I examine the concept of labour as it occurs in the tradition of Historical Materialism.
The way in which labour is defined, the position it has, and the role it plays within the tradition has major consequences for the political philosophy of Historical Materialism. Chapter 1 deals with Marx, chapter 2, opening the opposition to Historical Materialism, with Hannah Arendt, who I consider to be very underestimated in terms of the social ontology that she presents in 'The Human Condition'. Chapter 3 returns to Historical Materialism with the early publications of Jürgen Habermas (particularly his 'Theory of Communicative Action'). I discuss the merits and demerits of his position. In order to round off the tradition, chapter 4 turns the current neo-Marxists Hardt, Negri and Lazzarato. Chapter 5 offers a final discussion.
Ulrich Mühe ©2010

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Published by: fusionulle on Jan 17, 2011
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Labour, Politics andEmancipation,
 Arendt and the HistoricalMaterialist Tradition
Ulrich Mühe(University of Kent)
 
 2
Labour, emancipation and politics – Arendt and the Historical Materialisttradition
Ulrich Mühe (PhD-submission)I investigate the role of labour in the tradition of Historical Materialism with particularfocus on politics and emancipation. The centrality of labour in this tradition is crucialfor its claims concerning human life, which is meant to be accounted for in a materialistfashion. Overall I argue that this approach is an insufficient and reductive account of human life.Starting with Marx’s writings I show the connections and relations between his accountof labour and his account of society. I criticise Marx for an insufficiently differentiatedaccount of labour and the confusion of 
 poiesis
and
 praxis.
I will show that this leads tovery particular outcomes in Marx’s thought on politics.In opposition to Marx I then present the approach to human life that Hannah Arendtprovides. I explain Arendt’s account and the distinction between labour, work and ac-tion. Subsequently I defend her approach against several criticisms.In the third chapter I investigate Jürgen Habermas’s account of human action. He pre-sents the account of a Historical Materialist who attempts to incorporate Arendt’s criti-cisms of this tradition. I will defend Habermas’ approach particularly in reference toobjections to his division between communicative and instrumental action. Then I willcriticise his approach to human interaction on the issue of his pragmatism in languagewith which he reduces interaction to the propositional content of people’s utterances.Habermas cannot escape the reductivism inherent in Historical Materialism either.Lastly, I will criticise current postmodern Neo-Marxists Hardt and Negri. In their recentpublications they return to a more orthodox Historical Materialism but face substantiveissues in their accounts of (immaterial) labour and the future global political subject (the‘multitude’). Finally I end with reflections and projections on politics from an Arendtianview.
 
 3
 AcknowledgementsI would like to thank the entire philosophy staff at the University of Kent, particularly my supervisor Prof. Sean Sayers who provided me with both freedom
in 
and criticism
of 
my research that allowed my project to be what it has been. Furthermore I would like to men-tion explicitly Dr. Alan Thomas, Todd Mei, Lorenzo Chiesa, the School of European Cul-tures and Languages at the University of Kent in general, Peter Andras and Sabine Pfeiffer.It is due to these and all the other people with which I have been in contact during my re-search that this project ended up teaching me a lot more than what I could have expected when I started. Thanks to you all!

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