Each of our last three texts (by Smith, Durkheim and Polanyi) has had at its core a philosophical perspective on the human condition articulated primarily through an engagement with contemporary evidence. The Human Condition takes us beyond this the socio-economic foreground towards the big questions that lurk behind it.
Hannah Arendt (1906 - 1975) writes in the aftermath of the cataclysms of the first half of the twentieth century in which the foundations of Western political philosophy appeared to crumble. Arendt returns to some fundamentals and begins with such basic ideas as action and freedom, seeking to establish a picture of what is essentially human in terms of our doings and interactions rather than some essential, internal nature. As such she directly addresses one of the oldest questions about society: what makes a good life and how is it to be lived with others?
The text gets its start from the Existentialist tradition but is refreshingly readable without sacrificing seriousness. But does Arendt provide useful answers? Does she even ask the right questions? Or can answers only come from a more concrete, sociological method?
Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition, Prologue and Chapter 1 ('The Human Condition')
Online: http://www.uruguaypiensa.org.uy/noticia_456_1.html (The text on the page is in Spanish but the PDF is in English)
The usual advice applies: you're strongly encouraged to have a look at the reading in advance so that you can make a full contribution to the discussion.