“The slow boring of hard boards”: Methodical thinking and the work of politics

Mary G. Dietz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


From the perspective of quite different theoretical traditions, Simone Weil and Hannah Arendt present nearly identical and equally powerful critiques of technological determinism in modernity. Yet unlike Arendt, Weil develops a concept of work that draws a distinction between technology and instrumental action as “methodical thinking.” As a result, Weil's theory of action embraces something that Arendt's theatrical politics rejects—a concept of liberatory instrumentality, or purposeful performance. I shall reassess some of the inadequacies of Arendt's concept of work and develop Simone Weil's concept of methodical thinking in order to argue for a more neighborly affinity between work:interaction and purposeful:theatrical performance than Arendtian public realm theory, for all its power, currently allows. If such an affinity is possible, then public realm theory might be more adequately equipped to deliver on what I take to be its promise as an emancipatory project in late modernity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-886
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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