HANNAH ARENDT'S THEORY OF POWER AS COMMUNICATION: A FEMINIST CRITIQUE

JOY ANN JAMES, Fordham University

Abstract

Hannah Arendt argues that power is communication not coercion and control: power radically differs from control, domination or violence in that it cannot be exercised over someone; it can only be exercised with others through communication and cooperation. Political power is shared power, collective action by members of a political community with an understanding of power as communication not as coercion.^ Arendt argues that traditional political philosophy misrepresents power as ruling and confuses power with domination. This misrepresentation of power legitimizes fascism in politics and obscures the possibilities for political community in the absence of coercion. According to Arendt, politics exists not merely as a means for achieving objectives (if so, domination and violence would be preferred as more efficacious). Politics transcends immediate objectives for it enables community, interdependency, identity and freedom.^ This dissertation, while acknowledging Arendt's contributions towards understanding power and community, argues that in basing her arguments for communicative power on the Athenian polis without criticizing its domination and exploitation of the "household" (used here to refer to those excluded from political power through class, race, sex oppression), Arendt fails to analyze oppression and provides an elitist or non-democratic theory of political community. Arendt cannot adequately address the contemporary "contradiction" she herself notes concerning the African American in the United States: the coexistence of "social slavery and political freedom". Such 'contradictions' embody the relationships of exploitation and domination between the public world of systems and elites and the private world of the household.^ Contemporary feminist/political theory analyzing from the perspective of the household/marginalized attempts to clarify what Arendt obscures: the relationships of political/economic/racial elites to the oppression and underdevelopment of the household. All feminist theory cannot adequately analyze power and oppression. This dissertation compares "Mainstream Feminism," with its myopic view of power and domination distorted by race and class biases, with "Global Feminism". Global Feminism analyzes the impact of racism, imperialism, and sexism on relationships of power and domination. It contributes to Hannah Arendt's argument for power as communication a more comprehensive analysis and dynamic refutation of power as domination. ^

Subject Area

Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

JAMES, JOY ANN, "HANNAH ARENDT'S THEORY OF POWER AS COMMUNICATION: A FEMINIST CRITIQUE" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8716208.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8716208

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