This dissertation studies the concept of freedom in Hannah Arendt and Simone de Beauvoir. I argue that freedom should be understood as a personal and political life project and not as a property of a sovereign self or a fulfilled state of being. In light of this understanding, I contend that rendering freedom legible requires the study of exemplary lives within their embodied socio-political and historical situations. Accordingly, I develop an interpretive approach to political theory that I call political hermeneutics of lived experience.
I focus on two biographical texts that I take to be paradigmatic of this approach: Arendt’s Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess (1957) and Beauvoir’s “Must We Burn Sade?” (1955). These texts represent a biographical practice of political theory that express the two authors’ mutual conviction that freedom and politics, and the modes of theorizing them, must be grounded in lived experience. Further, these biographical texts reveal the intricacies of their political thought in ways that shed light to, and sometimes go beyond their purely theoretical or philosophical works. Arendt’s reading of Varnhagen life gives an account of political subjectivity that, I argue, was abandoned in Arendt’s later work and that serves to critically assess her distinction between the private, the social, and the political. For her part, Beauvoir’s Sade brings to concretion her phenomenological analyses of lived experience and embodiment, as well as her parsing of the role that oppression, action, and privilege play in furthering or hindering projects of freedom. Taking insights from Arendt and Beauvoir—in their coincidences and disagreements—and mobilizing Beauvoir’s principle of ambiguity, I conclude that freedom must be regarded as a multi-dimensional and multi-spatial—bodily, subjective, intersubjective; private, social, and political—experience of becoming.
|Advisor:||Miller, James E.|
|Commitee:||Plotke, David, Bernstein, Richard J., Marso, Lori J.|
|School:||The New School|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Political science, Biographies|
|Keywords:||Biography, Experience, Freedom, Arendt, Hannah , de Beauvoir, Simone|
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