BOUNDLESSNESS

 

ILLUSTRATIONS POLITICAL SPACE-34.jpg

Political space keeps our actions within boundaries.

Debates usually have a moderator. The moderator makes sure that the debate stays within boundaries. S/he guarantees that the participants do not divagate too much from the original topic, pours oil on troubled water and mediates between participants whenever it is needed, gives a good example for how to behave and, if necessary, assures that the participants arrive at an agreement. Just as a good referee, a good moderator is practically invisible.

Arendt highlights that action is inherently “boundless”. What she means is that human action – political or not – since it always goes on between different actors, by definition establishes human relations. Since, furthermore, action is unpredictable and irreversible, these connections cannot be undone at will and it is not foreseeable where they will lead or which new relations may arise from them in the future.

Today, we are well aware of the great potential of human networks and we try to exploit it through events, platforms and the like. But despite all this optimism we should not forget about the less pleasant aspects of boundlessness, especially in the political realm. On the one hand, political action is fleeting. Human relations often dissolve as quickly as they are established and who permanently creates new connections risks that, in the end, none of them will last. The more we look for novelty, in other words, the less time we have to actually complete something, to turn a beginning into a story. On the other hand, political action has the tendency to “force open all limitations and cut across all boundaries” (HC: 191). Our projects, ventures and undertakings easily get out of hand as soon as others get involved. Therefore, our original intentions and motives may not endure. Too many cooks, so to say, may spoil the broth.

“Action […] no matter what its specific content, always establishes relationships and therefore has an inherent tendency to force open all limitations and cut across all boundaries. Limitations and boundaries […] are of such great importance to the stability of human affairs precisely because no such limiting and protecting principles rise out of the activities going on in the realm of human affairs itself. […] The boundlessness of action is only the other side of its tremendous capacity for establishing relationships” (HC: 191)

No remedy against the boundlessness of action arises from the realm of action itself. But we can support and stabilise (political) action with the help of principles, rules, guidelines, laws, limitations and the like. All these elements can be made but are never done. They evoke the very tangible metaphors of foundations, corner stones, pillars, paths or fences. Still, the authority and bindingness of these elements of course arises from active compliance and lived respect for them. Hence they somehow lie at the intersection of acting and making. The moderator, for example, is not usually the one who makes the rules, but the one who makes sure that they are respected and, if necessary, makes or allows exceptions.

Political action is boundless. Political relations and ventures thus depend on stabilising elements. Political space embodies and guarantees this stabilisation. It should be clearly defined, well-structured, durable and moderate in every sense of the word.

 

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