The Embodiment of Political Freedom: Spontaneous Movement, Plurality and the Ontological Constitution of Public Space

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This article seeks to investigate the relation between bodies’ movements, political freedom and the ontological constitution and maintenance of public space, understood in the very material sense of the res publica, the public thing, particularly the question what inhibitions of movement in public space could tell us about the meaning of uninhibited movement for political freedom. The starting point of this inquiry into the political value of bodily movement are Hannah Arendt’s cursory remarks, that we find scattered throughout her work, about elementary corporeal capacity of free movement as basic to political freedom. Referring to Butler and Merleau-Ponty, it reconstructs Arendt’s account of the relation between our elementary free bodily movement, public space and political freedom. While this account proves very insightful, it also exposes a certain ambivalence about the political meaning of free movement. Further, the author argues that this ambivalence results from Arendt’s reluctance to radically think through the consequences of her account of the corporeal nature of free movement. Engaging with feminist criticisms of Arendt’s body-aversiveness (especially Judith Butler’s), she shows that it is not so much the vulnerable body, but the capable, including resisting, body that is missing in Arendt’s account of political freedom. For that reason, the author turns to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body to argue that bodily free movement is not just negative, but could have a positive meaning as a political ‘practice of freedom’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHannah Arendt: Challenges of Plurality
EditorsM. Robaszkiewicz, T. Matzner
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-81712-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-81714-5
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

Series Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences


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