Amo: Volo ut sis: Love, willing and Arendt's reluctant embrace of sovereignty

Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (3):287-313 (2008)

James Martel
San Francisco State University
Although critical of what she calls the `antipolitical' forces of love and sovereignty, Arendt reluctantly embraces these aspects as the basis of politics itself. I explain this paradox by arguing that Arendt seeks to balance Greek and Roman notions of freedom with modern conceptions of the will. The solipsistic will poses a threat to politics (it is the source of sovereignty itself). Yet the will is a fact of modern life and cannot be ignored. I argue that despite her embrace of classical understandings of freedom as contingency, Arendt seeks to limit contingency and even freedom itself. She does this to accommodate the will which must have some sense of agency and continuity in order to be able to function at all. Arendt argues that sovereignty can, if properly constrained, produce a `certain limited reality' and can (along with love) serve as a basis for politics. I claim that Arendt sacrifices her classical ideals, allowing for the possibility of a modern, lesser version of freedom (which in her view is better than no freedom at all). Key Words: love • promising • sovereignty • will.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453707087254
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