In The Human Condition Hannah Arendt portrays an ancient society divided between oikos, the private, hidden world of the household, and agora, the political ‘space of appearance’. The distinction between private and public life qualifies the three forms of the vita activa: labour, work and action. Labour, wound up in the necessities of life (zoë) and its reproduction, was for the ancient Greeks a strictly private matter that, like birth and death, was to be protected and hidden. Action, in contrast, resides at the public end of the spectrum and constitutes the defining ‘form of life’ of the polis and thus the highest manifestation of the vita activa. Action is based on the essential plurality of people in a political space and oriented towards the cultivation of the good life and the construction of freedom. Finally, work is an inherently ambiguous category as far as its public-private quality is concerned. It designates the fabrication of the human world in its lasting forms, yet is confined by the necessities of technique and material circumstances. Work is an extension of the strictly private realm of labour; however, it has a public that originates in the transactional space of market exchange. In Arendt’s analysis it does not, given its essentially economic nature (oikonomia), constitute the public sphere in the full political sense of the word (Arendt 1989: 159-67).