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Hannah Arendt's "Histories": A Contextual Perspective
Abstract

Abstract:

In Arendt's interrogations of political modernity, the concepts of history and politics have an ambiguous relation. On the one hand, she insisted that the performative character of politics as action was bound to its narrative aspect as remembrance. She was also a fervent proponent of integrating the historical sense into political understanding. On the other hand, Arendt characterized the modern historical sensibility from the point of view of politics as a "ghastly absurdity," and asserted that the political thought of our times needed to free itself both "from history" and "from thinking in historical terms." This paper explores the different meanings that Arendt granted to "history" as a (anti)political force and to historical sensibility as the basis for political understanding. It argues that not only were Arendt's rejection of the modern concept of history and its politics of history central for her critique, but that it was one of the key concerns that shaped the articulation of her own theory of action. The paper also examines the problem against the background of the intellectual tradition of Arendt's youth and in particular its uncompromising antihistoricism.



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