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Hannah Arendt

Critical Essays

Sandra K. Hinchman, Lewis P. Hinchman

Publication Year: 1994

This work presents both the range of Arendt’s political thought and the patterns of controversy it has elicited. The essays are arranged in six parts around important themes in Arendt’s work: totalitarianism and evil; narrative and history; the public world and personal identity; action and power; justice, equality, and democracy; and thinking and judging. Despite such thematic diversity, virtually all the contributors have made an effort to build bridges between interest-driven politics and Arendt’s Hellenic/existential politics. Although some are quite critical of the way Arendt develops her theory, most sympathize with her project of rescuing politics from both the foreshortening glance of the philosopher and its assimilation to social and biological processes. This volume treats Arendt’s work as an imperfect, somewhat time-bound but still invaluable resource for challenging some of our most tenacious prejudices about what politics is and how to study it. The following eminent Arendt scholars have contributed chapters to this book: Ronald Beiner, Margaret Canovan, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Seyla Benhabib, Jürgen Habermas, Hanna Pitkin, and Sheldon Wolin.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

Selecting articles to appear in this collection was not an easy task. For quality control, we wanted to confine ourselves to articles that previously had appeared in scholarly journals, rather than soliciting new ones. Commencing our research, we soon found that hundreds of essays on Arendt have been published, a large number...

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pp. xiii-xvi

We are grateful to a number of individuals and publishers for permission to use material from the following works or journals. Joseph Beatty, "Thinking and Moral Considerations: Socrates and Arendt's Eichmann," Journal of Value Inquiry 10, no. 1 (Winter 1976): 266-78,

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pp. xvii-xxviii

Nearly a generation has passed since Hannah Arendt died. Indeed, her most influential book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, first appeared over four decades ago. Her work certainly has not become passe in the meanwhile, as the rich and burgeoning commentary represented in this volume demonstrates. But by...

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PART I: Totalitarianism and Evil

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pp. 1-6

The 1951 work The Origins of Totalitarianism (initially called The Burden of Our Time) made Arendt's reputation. The title of this extremely influential trilogy is misleading, for-as Arendt later admitted in a public exchange with Eric Voegelin-her intention was not so much to trace out origins as to discern...

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CHAPTER 1: Is Totalitarianism a New Phenomenon? Reflections on Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism

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pp. 30-40

It is fair to say that, for many students of comparative politics and political theory, the concept of "totalitarianism" has fallen from grace. Having reached its high point of respectability during the Second World War and its aftermath, many critics had by the early 1970s become disenchanted with the notion as either imprecise...

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CHAPTER 2: Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Evil

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pp. 41-56

In the twentieth century the position of the German Jewish community was to be one of unusual complexity, of powerful ironies and, ultimately, of great disruption and pain. On the one hand, the ideals nourished by the Enlightenment, emerging in the last part of the eighteenth century, and represented in Germany...

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CHAPTER 3: Thinking and Moral Considerations: Socrates and Arendt's Eichmann

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pp. 57-74

Philosophers ancient and modern have argued for the connection between reason and morality. The arguments have so persisted as to suggest almost a self-glorifying inclination among philosophers who claimed, sometimes tacitly, sometimes openly, to be the paradigms ofthe life of reason and, thus, of the moral life...

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PART II: Narrative and History

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pp. 75-78

Throughout her career, Arendt remained fascinated by the alchemy of time. Human life, she said, arises within the context of sempiternal cycles and rhythms-processes that, by virtue of their repetitive, recurrent character, are ultimately meaningless. For the most part, people themselves remain locked within the...

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CHAPTER 4: Explaining Dark Times: Hannah Arendt's Theory of Theory

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pp. 79-110

When she died in 1975, Hannah Arendt was one of the respected political thinkers of her time. It is therefore surprising that her work has exercised so little influence on the practice of her contemporaries in the "mainstream" of political science. It is my belief that much more is involved in this fact than historical...

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CHAPTER 5: Hannah Arendt and the Redemptive Power of Narrative

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pp. 111-138

The question of Jewish identity and the fate of the Jewish people in the twentieth century were the undeniable conditions which inspired a rather unpolitical student of the Existenzphilosophie of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger to become one of the most illuminating, and certainly one of the most controversial...

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PART III: The Public World and Personal Identity

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pp. 139-142

The essays featured in the previous part examined Arendt's theory that human life is redeemed from the timeless circularity of nature through enacted stories. On the level of the individual self, Arendt held that speech and deeds perform another function: they reveal their agent, disclosing the unique "who" of the individual...

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CHAPTER 6: Existentialism Politicized: Arendt's Debt to Jaspers

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pp. 143-178

In a 1964 letter to Gershom Scholem, Hannah Arendt remarked: "If I can be said to 'have come from anywhere,' it is from the tradition of German philosophy."1 Besides "classical" theorists such as Lessing and Kant, Arendt certainly had in mind her mentors, Heidegger and Jaspers, who shaped her thinking both...

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CHAPTER 7: Politics as Culture: Hannah Arendt and the Public Realm 1

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pp. 179-206

It is well known that Hannah Arendt placed great emphasis on political action in the public realm, and maintained that freedom was characteristic of public rather than private life. What is less well-understood is what Arendt meant by this 'public realm' and why it seemed so important to her. In this paper, I shall...

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pp. 207-210

Earlier we saw that history for Arendt recorded and established the meaning of human action in the public realm. This section examines action and the related phenomenon of power in greater depth. As outlined in The Human Condition, Arendt's theory of action issued a challenge to reigning social science...

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CHAPTER 8: Hannah Arendt's Communications Concept of Power

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pp. 211-230

Max Weber defined power (Macht) as the possibility offorcing one's own will on the behavior of others. Hannah Arendt, on the contrary, understands power as the ability to agree upon a common course of action in unconstrained communication. Both represent power as a potency that is actualized in actions, but each...

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CHAPTER 9: Hannah Arendt and Feminist Politics

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pp. 231-256

Hannah Arendt, perhaps the most influential female political philosopher of the twentieth century, continuously championed the bios politikos-the realm of citizenship-as the domain of human freedom. In her major work, The Human Condition, Arendt appropriated the Aristotelian distinction between "mere...

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PART V: Justice, Equality, Democracy

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pp. 257-260

Arendt expressed concern that, in the modern world, both the private and the public spheres were being assimilated to a hybrid realm called the social. In The Human Condition she described the rise of the social as the process by which private needs, interests, and concerns become publically significant. Society...

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CHAPTER 10: Justice: On Relating Private and Public

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pp. 261-298

By almost all the available evidence, we are witnesing a widespread turning away from public life. The prevaling disillusionment with established leadership and institutions produces not protest but withdrawal into privacy, yet privatizaton manifestly is not providing the comfort and security we seek....

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CHAPTER 11: Hannah Arendt: Democracy and the Political

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pp. 299-306

The question of democracy is not one that has received much attention from those who have written about Hannah Arendt. This omission seems understandable because Arendt herself never systematically addressed the topic in any of her writings. Yet it is not difficult to show that many of the major categories...

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CHAPTER 12: Hannah Arendt's Argument for Council Democracy

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pp. 307-330

One of the most puzzling aspects of the political thought of Hannah Arendt is her support for some kind of council democracy. It is one of the few topics in her work that is not taken seriously by critics. Evaluations of her specific proposals in this regard invariably contain the word utopian: "utopian populist," "utopian...

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pp. 331-334

Until late in her career, Arendt rarely speculated on the nature of mental processes, concentrating instead on the active life. As a result, she was sometimes accused of celebrating a sort of "decisionism" in which people would act unreflectively. The charge was dispelled by the posthumous publication of...

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CHAPTER 13: Reflections on Hannah Arendt's The Life of the Mind

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pp. 335-364

While Hannah Arendt was preparing The Human Condition for its 1958 publication, she began to work on a book called Introduction to Politics. This too-ambitious book was never written. Between Past and Future, published in 1961, fulfilled many of its tasks, but not the last and most complex-a reflection on the...

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CHAPTER 14: Judging in a World of Appearances: A Commentary on Hannah Arendt's Unwritten Finale1

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pp. 365-388

Hannah Arendt never lived to write Part Three of the Life of the Mind. As Mary McCarthy, editor ofthe posthumous work, tells us in her Postface to the two published volumes, Arendt died suddenly, less than a week after completing the draft of...


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pp. 389-406


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pp. 407-410


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pp. 411-422

E-ISBN-13: 9781438406749
E-ISBN-10: 1438406746
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791418536
Print-ISBN-10: 0791418537

Page Count: 422
Publication Year: 1994

Series Title: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues