Volume 6, Issue 2, 2019
The Nature of Human Activity
A Critical Assessment of Arendt’s Views on Marx
In this work I present some of Arendt’s criticisms of Marx and assess whether these criticisms are fair. I claim that Arendt reads Marx erroneously, which results in her failure to grasp certain similarities between Marx and herself, at least on some points. It is important to mention that Arendt’s interest in Marx is part of a wider project she pursues. She believes that Marx’s theory might allow us to establish a link between Bolshevism and the history of Western thought. Marx’s notion of history and progress enables Arendt to support her claim that Marx’s theory involves totalitarian elements. By way of correcting Arendt’s misreading of Marx, my purpose has been to get a better understanding of the theories of Marx and Arendt, as well as to see their incompatible views regarding the nature of human activity and of freedom. Arendt charges Marx of ignoring the most central human activity, that is ‘action’; and of denying human beings a genuine political existence and freedom. Furthermore, according to Arendt, Marx conceives labor as human being’s highest activity and ignores the significance of other two activities, namely work and action. In the last analysis, Marx and Arendt prioritizes distinct human activities as the most central (labor and action, respectively) to human beings; and as a result, they provide us two irreconcilable views of politics, history and freedom.