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Arendt, Hannah


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


(1906–75) Political thinker. Arendt is notable, not least, for her radical critique of the whole tradition of political philosophy on the grounds that philosophy, as a contemplative discipline, intrinsically tends to inhibit any genuine feel for politics. Although by nature a contemplative thinker herself, her life experience taught her to mistrust pure contemplation. Even so, she was equally averse to political orthodoxies. Thus, having originated from a thoroughly assimilated German Jewish background, she nevertheless chose to celebrate -as the purest antithesis to the socially ambitious “parvenu” – the vocation of the politically conscious “pariah.” Her only direct participation in organized politics came during the period 1933–42, when she was active in the Zionist movement. This led her into exile, first in Paris, and then from 1941 in New York (where, ten years later, she became an American citizen). She had been a student of Martin H eidegger and Karl J aspers , and in 1929 had published her doctoral dissertation, “Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin.” The first of her major works, however, is her monumental study of The Origins of Totalitarianism , which appeared in 1951. Thereafter all her writings, although they take various forms, may be seen as following a consistent trajectory. The Origins of Totalitarianism has been criticized for its lopsidedness: by “totalitarianism” ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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