Organizing by Engaging in Sensus Communis on Dignity
Arendt’s view on language and speech as a way to be free together, and her suggestion that we can make ourselves at home in the world by making distinctions and judgments is also at odds with Fleming and Spicer’s argument that communicative struggles should be universal. A turn to Arendt’s ideas on judgment as communizing, with expanding validity but never claiming universality, is more in line with Ferrara’s (2012) suggestion for discourses on dignity where particular experiences of dignity, as well as indignation, have exemplary validity.
Arendtian culture freed from tradition differs from Feldman’s ideas on tradition, authority, and internalized values. Totalitarian experiments in value management taught Arendt that societal morals and values are changeable and reversible.
I think that the moment you give anybody a new set of values—or this famous ‘bannister’—you can immediately exchange it. And the only thing the guy gets used to is having a ‘bannister’ and a set of values, no matter. (HA, p. 314)
Culture “management,” understood as caring for a dwelling place of things to relate to, to gather and separate us, is dignifying because it allows everyone to relate freely and fit in as they (wish to) please. It does not aim at governing or targeting minds or souls and certainly does not try to force the latter into the light.
Arendt concludes her reflections on culture by reminding us of the role of culture for choice and freedom:
[W]e may remember what the Romans—the first people that took culture seriously the way we do—thought a cultivated person ought to be: one who knows how to choose his company among men, among things, among thoughts, in the present as well as in the past. (BPF, pp. 225—226)