Hannah Arendt Essays In Understanding

Hannah Arendt Essays In Understanding-12
The relationship was sometimes uneasy and often controversial, most famously in the case of her account of Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, in which she coined the term “the banality of evil.” Watching Eichmann testify in his glass booth, Arendt became convinced that he was, above all, an inarticulate buffoon whose wicked deeds resulted from his participation in a bureaucratic structure that dissipated the sense of personal responsibility, and deadened the capacity for cognition.Gershom Scholem, the pioneering scholar of kabbalah, was one of many public intellectuals who felt that Arendt had lost track of the human reality of the Holocaust amid the scintillating twists of her argument.“If everyone always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but that no one believes anything at all anymore — and rightly so, because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, to be ‘re-lied,’ so to speak.” A lying government pursuing shifting goals has to ceaselessly rewrite its own history, leaving people not only dispossessed of their ability to act, “but also of their capacity to think and to judge,” she declared.

The relationship was sometimes uneasy and often controversial, most famously in the case of her account of Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, in which she coined the term “the banality of evil.” Watching Eichmann testify in his glass booth, Arendt became convinced that he was, above all, an inarticulate buffoon whose wicked deeds resulted from his participation in a bureaucratic structure that dissipated the sense of personal responsibility, and deadened the capacity for cognition.Gershom Scholem, the pioneering scholar of kabbalah, was one of many public intellectuals who felt that Arendt had lost track of the human reality of the Holocaust amid the scintillating twists of her argument.

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Reflecting on the numerous allusions to “reason of state” that crept into White House discourse after Watergate, she notes how the term became synonymous with national security.

“National security now covers everything,” she commented, including “all kinds of crime.

Deprivation of citizenship should be classified as a crime against humanity, Arendt argued, because most legal protections are now conferred through functioning state governments.

“Some of the worst recognized crimes in this category have …

THINKING WITHOUT A BANISTER Essays in Understanding, 1953-1975 By Hannah Arendt Edited by Jerome Kohn 569 pp. How do we preserve a spirited intellectual autonomy that yet includes sense of the past to contextualize and resist those power-grabbers who would bamboozle the public with their own fun house versions of truth?

What is the relationship between thinking, acting and historical consciousness?

For instance, ‘the president has a right’ is now read in the light of ‘the king can do no wrong.’” This is no longer a matter of justifying particular crimes, she warns, but rather concerns “a style of politics which in itself is criminal.” The indictment chimes with her taxonomy of the tyrant in an essay titled “The Great Tradition”: “He pretends to be able to act completely alone; he isolates men from each other by sowing fear and mistrust between them, thereby destroying equality together with man’s capacity to act; and he cannot permit anybody to distinguish himself, and therefore starts his rule with the establishment of uniformity, which is the perversion of equality.”Such observations should give pause to those who would prop up a tyrant for personal ends, and must redouble the opposition’s will to depose that ruler before the public’s capacity for thought and action alike is confounded.

Compiled, edited, and briefly annotated by Hannah Arendt's longtime assistant Jerome Kohn (Political and Social Science/New School), this first of two projected volumes collecting Arendt's (1906-75) essays, addresses, and reviews up to 1954 contains two previously unpublished essays: "On the Nature of Totalitarianism" (1953) and "The Concern with Politics in Contemporary European Philosophical Thought" (1954).

not incidentally, been preceded by mass expatriations,” she wrote, adding that the state’s ability to sentence someone to death was minor compared with its right to denaturalization, since the second could put the subject entirely beyond the pale of the law.

Such passages make for particularly chilling reading at a moment when America has begun rescinding the temporary protected status of thousands of longtime residents, threatening to deport them to their countries of origin, some of which labor under severe economic disadvantages and sociopolitical strains, where their rights and safety cannot be assured.

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