Food for thought

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) is an interesting political philosopher. In this post we would like to share two quotes from The Human Condition.

Poverty forces the free man to act like a slave.

The Human Condition p. 64


To own property meant here to be master over one’s own necessities of life and therefore potentially to be a free person, free to transcend his own life and enter the world in common.

The Human Condition, p. 65

Though the first quote might seem to be obvious, in particular presented out of context, it does, however, signifies the second quote. The second quote essentially presents a political defense of property rather than an economic one. In modern discourse we usually hear the arguments of economists why private property is essential, while the political, i.e. republican, argument is paid little attention.

Without property, i.e. the condition of poverty, one is vulnerable to become the victim of the whims of others, as one depends on other to meet one’s necessities of life. This is, however, no justification of the infinite accumulation of property. Interesting to note, Arendt makes a distinction between property and wealth.


Arendt, Hannah 1998 [1958] . The Human Condition (second edition). University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

7 thoughts on “Food for thought”

  1. Leaving my tasteless little tidbit. Just wondering about the conditions tens of thousands of years ago of poverty and property. I suppose they weren’t much different from today.

    1. Property as we know, is believed to have been developed after the emergence of agriculture and the associated sedentary life-style. Before this “neolithic” revolution, set about 10,000 years ago, people simply used whatever was at hand. Since people moved around, it’s unlikely that they had much “property”, as they had to carry it with them.

      Agriculture is not undoubtedly seen as a positive development. With agriculture also social stratification entered the human world, the distinction between those with land and those without. There is also a believe that hunter-gatherers spent actually less time to supply themselves with food.

  2. Arendt’s writings on totalitarianism and the nature of political power have great relevance to today’s corporatist world. Having escaped the Holocaust, I’d say she was highly qualified on the subject.

    1. Poverty is an evil which should be eradicated. There are a few billion people who have to live from less than one dollar, while there are over a million millionaires (in USD) on this planet.

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