Hannah Arendt: Critical Essays

Hannah Arendt: Critical Essays

Hannah Arendt: Critical Essays

Hannah Arendt: Critical Essays

Synopsis

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, Jurgen Habermas, Hanna Pitkin, and Sheldon Wolin."

Excerpt

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 passé in the meanwhile, as the rich and burgeoning commentary represented in this volume demonstrates. But by now it has ceased to stimulate the inflamed polemics of the sort that her "banality of evil" thesis once provoked. In fact, some of the most bitter academic quarrels during the 1950s and 1960s-- whether behavioral science should displace political theory, whether totalitarianism was monolithic, whether the age of "ideology" was coming to an end--stir scarcely an echo today. It may therefore be possible to understand and evaluate Arendt's arguments without the rancor and the distortions that prevailed in the past.

There are good reasons for undertaking this sort of reappraisal, beyond the mere fact of temporal distance and the clarity it can bring. Although the Cold War and other circumstances that conditioned Arendt's thinking have lapsed, certain broader trends and phenomena that she described make her writings seem almost prescient. Recent events in Eastern Europe (not to mention similar cases in the Philippines and elsewhere) offer the rare spectacle of what Arendt termed action, power, and public freedom transforming, almost overnight, societies whose citizens had been subject to extreme forms of domination. Journalistic accounts of the events in Eastern Europe have a palpably Arendtian . . .

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