Date of Award
Master of Arts
AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF UMIT KARTAL, for the Master of Arts degree in PHILOSOPHY, presented on September 29, 2011, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: PUBLIC SPACE MUST BE DEFENDED. HANNAH ARENDT'S CONCEPTION OF POLITICS AND THE PUBLIC SPACE: ITS PROMISES AND LIMITS MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Kenneth Stikkers This thesis is an examination of Hannah Arendt's reconsideration of the meaning of politics and her systematic search for the recovery of the public spaces. Her scrutiny of the meaning of politics is determined by the disastrous outcomes of totalitarian experiences from both ends of the political spectrum, namely, Nazism and Stalinism. For Arendt, the phenomenon of totalitarianism deserted the human world and brought new issues forth, such as statelessness, rightlessness, homelessness, and worldlessness. These phenomena, Arendt holds, run parallel to the collapse of the essential articulations of the human condition, which can be distinguished in sheer thoughtlessness, speechlessness, and lack of judgment. It is due to these unprecedented and unanticipated issues, which cannot be addressed by traditional political categories, Arendt invites us to grapple with the meaning of politics anew. The basic definition of politics, for Arendt, is human plurality, namely, our coexistence in a common world which enables differences and diversities of perspectives to appear. The question what politics means, for Arendt, is inextricably tied to what its distinctive locus is, namely, the public space or space of appearances. The emergence of the social resulted in blurring the distinctive line between the public realm and the private realm. Then, the recovery of the public space is of a central place in Arendt's political theory. Through Arendt's reconsideration of the meaning of politics and the recovery of the public space we are provided a comprehensive framework to think about a more inclusive and democratic politics. Nevertheless, we are challenged by a set of problems: a very sharp distinction between the public realm and the private realm, a contrast between the social and political, and a lack of systematic interest in democracy. First, I concentrate on Arendt's insightful analysis of politics and the public space in turn. Then I focus on the problematic aspects of her political theory. Finally, I argue that these problematic aspects can be complemented by a comparative reading of Arendt with John Dewey. I conclude that Dewey offers us a more dynamic criterion to decide the line between the private realm and the public realm. Instead of opposing the social to political, Dewey extends the scope of politics by taking every aspects of social life into consideration. The recovery of the public, for him, depends essentially on democracy, which is identified to the experience of local community.
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