Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 in Germany, being the only child of middle-class Jewish parents of Russian descent. As a university student, she was one of the most brilliant and studied with the finest scholars of the time. Arendt in 1933 left Germany for France, and was even interned there for a while before she managed to leave for the U.S. in 1941. There, she began to wonder about and write The Origins of Totalitarianism (thereafter referred to as OT) firstly published in 1951. She worked for Jewish organisations, and even took part as a journalist for The New Yorker to the infamous Eichmann trial in Israel. Her series of article published in the foresaid journal can be found in: Eichmann in Jerusalem, A Report on the Banality of Evil (thereafter Eichmann's Report). She became an eminent political post-modernist philosopher, intrinsically linked to the historical events of the 20th century, both for being a human and a German Jew.
[...] She therefore makes this extraordinary distrustful statement in OT that: more highly developed a civilization, the more accomplished the world it has produced, the more at home men feel within the human artifice Equality [ ] is the result of human organization [and] our political life rests on the assumption that we can produce equality through organization, [But] the fact of difference as such, of individuality as such, indicates those realms in which man cannot change and cannot act and in which, therefore, he has a distinct tendency to destroy No doubt, wherever public life and its law of equality are completely victorious, wherever the civilization succeeds in eliminating or reducing to a minimum the dark background of difference, it will end in complete petrifaction and be punished, so to speak, for having forgotten that man is only the master, not the creator of the world.” Now that we considered Arendt's pessimism about modern liberal society in all its grandeur, and why she came to think so, I propose to seek whether it is justified or not. [...]
[...] Also, we will see why this analysis led her to such pessimism about human nature, not only modern liberal societies, hence criticising the idea of inalienable Human Rights, and reassessing the role of thinker's vis-à-vis Totalitarianism. But perhaps, those social theory tools she so radically rejected are not useless and may help us to understand Totalitarianism? Conceivably, she might have used some of them unconsciously. It will appear somewhat false to hold such regimes as being “beyond human understanding”. Perhaps also, she missed certain points she herself drew. [...]
[...] But when he talked about emotional and habitual actions as distinct from rational actions, he only meant to point out that some human actions are purely emotional or purely habitual, not that emotion and habit are not part of rational actions. It is then possible to understand Totalitarianism as purely rationally emotional or rationally habitual. Indeed, this is what Arendt did at a level when she describes this superfluousness, this need for change that was within the ‘front generation'. In spite of her analysis, she stayed on the assumption that rationality is utility, which I assume is not quite true. [...]
[...] She was faced with a rupture, a new system. She was willing to show how different Totalitarianism was, and radically refused to use precedent social theory tools but for Montesquieu, although only here to make Totalitarianism more different. Whilst she took an historical approach to the origins of Totalitarianism, she appears to me only to take those elements that are necessary to her purposes, and left the rest apart, especially the answer that may lie within national histories, the role of the Leader, and of those 19th century thinkers. [...]
[...] I therefore want to express my opinion that if Arendt is pessimistic about modern liberal society, then she is not justified. However, I want to see her lessons as a necessary sceptical attitude towards authority, and human nature. To draw analyses of human failure is not necessary to reject all human standings, for we also do great things, otherwise it would be to totalise totalitarianism and, indeed, to give way to it. Bibliography Arendt, Hannah, Origins of Totalitarianism Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil Essays in Understanding Canovan, Margaret, in Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt D.Villa, Arendt's Theory of Totalitarianism: A Reassessment Derrida, Jacques, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness Durhkeim, Emile, The Division of Labour Fine, Robert, Political Investigations, The Idea of Hegel's Philosophy of Right chapter 2 Totalitarianism and the Rational State chapter 6 Girard, René, Violence and Holiness Hegel, Friedrich Philosophy of Right Kant, Immanuel Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch Lang, Berel, The New Criterion Online, Snowblind: Martin Heidegger & Hannah Arendt, http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/14/jan96/lang.htm Neuman, Franz, Behemoth Hannah Arendt, Eichmann's Report, p Hegel, Philosophy of Right (thereafter preface 20 Margaret Canovan, in Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt D.Villa, Arendt's Theory of Totalitarianism: A Reassessment (thereafter ATT), p ibid, p Hannah Arendt, OT p Hannah Arendt, Essays in Understanding (thereafter EU) p Robert Fine, Political Investigations, chapter 6 Totalitarianism and the Rational State (thereafter TRS) p.103 Hannah Arendt, EU p Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, p.32 Hannah Arendt, EU p.308 Robert Fine, TRS, p Hannah Arendt, EU p.308 Robert Fine, TRS, p Margaret Cannovan, ATT p.37 ibid, p.38 Hannah Arendt, OT, p ibid ibid p ibid, p ibid, p ibid, p Margaret Canovan, ATT, p Hannah Arendt, OT, p ibidem, p Robert Fine, TRS, p ibid, p Hannah Arendt, OT, p Franz Neuman, Behemoth, p Hannah Arendt, OT p : rulers themselves do not claim to be just or wise, but only to execute historical or natural laws” Hannah Arendt, OT, p : do not want to be I want to be Robert Fine, TRS, p : ‘mass man' who renounces his claim to personality, does his duty at the expense of his own inclinations, and kills without passion or enmity”. [...]
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