A fissure in the distinction: Hannah Arendt, the family and the public/private dichotomy

Philosophy and Social Criticism 24 (5):85-104 (1998)
Abstract
By way of an analysis of Arendt's defense of the public/private distinction in The Human Condition, this essay offers a re-interpretation of the status of the family as a realm where the categories of action and speech play a vital role. The traditional criterion for the establishment of the public/private distinction is grounded in an idealization of the family as a sphere where a unity of interests destroys the conditions for the categories of action and speech. This essay takes issue with this assumption and argues that the traditional conception has had a pernicious effect not only on women, but on men as well. This argument is supported by locating a fissure in Arendt's analysis of this distinction that suggests a profound structural affinity between the public realm and the family. Key Words: Arendt • family • feminism • public/private.
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