Volume 46, Issue 1, Spring 2016
Hegel and Arendt on a Key Term of Modernity
The Creativity and Destructiveness of Labor
Since the early modern age, labor has gained centrality in both the social order and the conception of man. This study undertakes an attempt to evaluate this ascent by comparing the concept of labor in Hegel’s thought, as presented mainly in the Phenomenology of Spirit, with the conception of labor in the thought of Hannah Arendt. While Hegel linked labor closely to spirituality, Arendt argued that in the process of labor assimilating all human activities, man in fact forfeits spirituality. The peculiar destructiveness of labor seemed to be confirmed by twentieth-century totalitarian regimes elevating labor to a unique source of values. In addition to comparing Hegel and Arendt’s conceptions, the aim of this study is to ask whether Hegel’s concept of labor is susceptible to the dangers inherent in the ideological conceptions of totalitarian regimes.