Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Submitted version

Brennan, D. (2017). Considering the public private-dichotomy: Hannah Arendt, Václav Havel and Victor Klemperer on the importance of the private. Human Studies, 1-17.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017


0163-8548 print, 1572-851X online


This paper examines the political significance of discursive activity in the private sphere in the thought of Hannah Arendt, Václav Havel, and Victor Klemperer. Against criticisms of Arendt which claim that she pays too much attention to the public sphere and consequently misses the importance of the private sphere in her analysis of political action, this paper highlights important insights in Arendt’s writing on family and friendship and the ability of these relationships to act as havens where discourse can thrive. What emerges from the analysis is a rich agonistic discourse ethics. The paper employs the respective thought of Havel and Klemperer to highlight Arendt’s work on the political significance of private virtues for promoting an awareness of responsibility. This position is then defended against the criticisms of discourse ethics offered by Chantal Mouffe.



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