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I THE editor of Social Research, Arien Mack, and I both thought that it would be appropriate and of interest to begin this issue with a hitherto unpublished selection of Hannah Arendt’s writings that immediately followed the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism. Origins was first published in 1951 and that same year Arendt submitted a proposal to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for a book that she described as follows: The most serious gap in The Origins of Totalitarianism is the lack of an adequate historical and conceptual analysis of the ideological background of Bolshevism. This omission was deliberate. All other elements that eventually crystallized into the totalitarian movements and forms of government can be traced back into subterranean currents in Western history, emerging only when and where the traditional social and political framework of European nations had broken down. Racism and imperialism, the tribal nationalism of the pan-movements and antisemitism, bear no relation to the great political and philosophical traditions of the West. The shocking originality of totalitarianism , the fact that its ideologies and methods of governing were entirely unprecedented and that its causes defied proper explanation in the usual historical terms, is easily overlooked if one lays too much stress on the only element that has behind it a respectable tradition and whose critical discussion requires a criticism of some of the chief tenets of Western political philosophy: Marxism.1 The new book was originally to be called Totalitarian Elements in Marxism, but as Arendt began work on it she became convinced Introduction of what she had only given a hint at the end of the final sentence in the description just quoted: namely, that her study could not be adequately undertaken without first thoroughly examining the entire tradition of philosophic and political thought. She realized that Marx not only stood firmly in that tradition, but also with him that tradition had come full circle: in an extremely complicated way it had come back to its origins and thus, as she said later, “culminated and found its end.”2 Henceforth Arendt’s working title for the book became Karl Marx and the Tradition of Western Political Thought, which is the overall title of the two manuscripts from which the selections published here are taken (the title of the first manuscript omits the word “Western”). The first selection bears the subtitle “The Broken Thread of Tradition” and the second “The Modern Challenge to Tradition.” Arendt’s proposed book was never completed. Although parts of it were incorporated into The Human Condition, On Revolution, and Between Past and Future, approximately a thousand pages prepared for or relevant to the work on Marx are in the Library of Congress’s collection of Arendt’s papers. Some of these materials were delivered as lectures for the Christian Gauss Seminar at Princeton University in 1953, others at Notre Dame University the following year, and still others elsewhere. To read these manuscript pages is not easy: they are disordered, cut up and pasted together for the various lectures, and for that reason also at times repetitive. More than anything else, however, their difficulty stems from the fact that in the early 1950s Arendt’s mind was extraordinarily fecund, literally brimming over with ideas, some revisited for further probing and all written down in white heat in a decidedly Germanized English. The sentences, and consequently the paragraphs, are often far too long and unwieldy; in addition, as she used to say and here exemplified, “the English language has no rules where the adverbs go.” Nevertheless, to immerse oneself in these texts is metaphorically to swim in a sea of ideas that would later be thematized in distinctive ways in Arendt’s published VI SOCIAL RESEARCH works throughout the rest of her life. These thematizations can be generally characterized as reflecting the tension that Arendt keenly felt between what she sometimes called thinking and acting and sometimes philosophy and politics. All the Marx manuscripts have been collected and edited and will be published under a title that tries to capture that tension at the moment it first became apparent to her: Karl Marx and the Problem of Political Philosophy. The following selections...


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