Contemporary politics is dominated by discussions of rights and liberties as the proper subjects about which citizens should be concerned in the political sphere. In Public Space and Political Experience: An Arendtian Interpretation, David Antonini argues that Hannah Arendt conceived of politics differently and that her thought can help us retrieve a more authentic sense of politics as the site where citizens can speak and act together about matters of shared concern. Antonini shows that citizens can experience politics together if they approach it not as a realm where privately interested individuals compete for their rights or liberties but instead as a space where plural human beings come together as distinct yet equal creatures. Antonini argues that if we read Arendt as primarily concerned with political experience, we can reimagine common political concepts such as freedom, power, revolution, and civil disobedience. The book posits that politics should be considered a fundamental form of human experience, one rooted in what Arendt refers to as the existential condition of politics—human plurality. If plurality is the existential condition out of which our political life emerges, we can enliven and reimagine the possibilities that political life can provide for contemporary citizens.
David Antonini is lecturer of philosophy at Clemson University.
Chapter 1: Modernity and the Need of Political Experience
Chapter 2: Arendt’s Phenomenological Concept of Action: Part I
Chapter 3: Arendt’s Phenomenological Concept of Action: Part II
Chapter 4: Arendt’s Political Concept of Action, Part I: Revolution
Chapter 5: Arendt’s Political Concept of Action, Part II: Civil Disobedience
Chapter 6: Political Speech as Horizontal Political Experience: Judgment and Opinion Formation
"Public Space and Political Experience is a powerful, erudite, and compelling argument for returning to Hannah Arendt today. Antonini reads Arendt as a great thinker of the singular experience of politics as freedom. Recognizing that the greatest danger to the world is not politics but the loss of faith in politics, the belief that politics always brings with it disaster and that an ideal world would be one without politics, Arendt stubbornly held to the promise of politics. Antonini beautifully captures Arendt’s enduring belief that it is only in the practice of politics, in the exchange of opinions on objects of common concern, that citizens can grasp the world as something that is objective and shared. The reduction of politics to a mere instrument or means to an end has led to a loss of the common world and only accelerated our contempt for politics. The remarkable achievement of this book is to show not only how we arrived at this point of total despair but also how we might move beyond it."
"Aristotle understood that politics was a matter of learning how to live together well, but modern life, shaped by the liberal democratic worldview and neoliberal dogma, has seen the privatization of meaning. Theorists, like Arendt, who worked to restore the value of political life have been dismissed as nostalgic. Now Antonini offers a bold reading of Arendt as the thinker of our political future. He shows her historical phenomenologies of Greek, American, and French democracy as revealing the essential structures of a vibrant political sphere, pointing the way to a reinvigorated political life. Meaningful political experience is not only still possible--it's necessary."
“Antonini’s work is a call to rethink politics—or more specifically, political experience—from an Arendtian lens. By weaving together central Arendtian concepts such as freedom, plurality, and action, Antonini addresses the loss of the common world and points to the possibility of recovering it. Indeed, Antonini offers an alternative that goes beyond partisan politics by further reconstructing Arendt's concepts of power and speech in their performative significance.”
"A remarkably clear and compelling account of key concepts in the thought of Hannah Arendt. Antonini shows how Arendt's distinctive understanding of political experience is central to her thought and an antidote to the ills of our own time."