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HANNAH ARENDT'S THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM: Fifty Years Later / Vol. 69, No. 2 (Summer 2002)

July 1, 2002

Jerome Kohn, Guest Coeditor

Arien Mack, Editor

 

Table of Contents

 

Jerome Kohn
Introduction

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Arien Mack, and I both thought that it would be appropriate and of interest to begin this issue with a hitherto unpublished selection of Hannah Arendt’s writing that immediately followed the publications of The Origins of Totalitarianism… The main body of this issue of Social Research is made up of papers delivered at two conferences that marked the 50th anniversary of the publications of The Origins of Totalitarianism.  

 

Hannah Arendt
Karl Marx and the Tradition of Western Political Thought

The article examines the ideas of philosopher Karl Marx. It contends that Marx's ideas are within the tradition of Western political thought. Errors in the interpretation of the ideas of Marx by scholars and statesmen are presented. The notion of Marxism and the understanding of Marx about the reality of class struggle are discussed. Many scholars accused that totalitarianism has its origin from Marx's ideas. The influence of Marx has risen, spreading from strict Marxism to the entire field of social and historical sciences.

 

George Kateb
Ideology and Storytelling

The article examines the analysis made by author Hannah Arendt on the political thought of Karl Marx. It explains the focus of Arendt on ideology. It discusses the author's views on the link between Marxism and totalitarianism. Flaws in the analysis of Arendt are presented. Arendt taught that totalitarianism is senseless if the hold and power of ideas will not be emphasized. The system of ideas sanctions, impels and shapes the realization of these policies. Ideology is indespensable to murderous party dictatorships.

 

Antonia Grunenberg
Totalitarian Lies and Post-Totalitarian Guilt: The Question of Ethics in Democratic Politics

The article discusses the analysis of author Hannah Arendt on the political thoughts of Karl Marx and her understanding of ideology from the perspective of Marxism. It presents her divorcement of Marx's ideas from that of Marxism, which is an interpretation of the Bolshevists in Russia. It explains the importance of Arendt's understanding of ideology in tackling the problem facing the Western civilization after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Western democracies are shocked by the threat of destruction executed by men who professionally kill human beings.

 

Richard Bernstein
The Origins of Totalitarianism: Not History but Politics

The article examines the ideas presented by author Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." It discusses her understanding of the ideas of Karl Marx. It presents conditions that make totalitarianism become attractive to politicians. Her ideas based on the correspondence she had with friend Karl Jaspers are explained. Arendt's book concluded that totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up when it seems impossible to alleviate political, social or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.

 

Margaret Canovan
The People, the Masses, and the Mobilization of Power: The Paradox of Hannah Arendt's "Populism"

The article comments on the views of Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." The paradox of Arendt's views on populism and on the notion of the people, the masses and mobilization are discussed. Arendt's book is devoted to analyzing the activities of totalitarian movements and racist or anti-Semitic mobs. It makes clear Arendt's distrust of almost all cases in which large numbers of people made their presence felt in politics. Arendt points out that within the classical republican tradition which had kept alive the memory of an alternative to monarchy.

 

Jacques Taminiaux
The Philosophical Stakes in Arendt's Geneology of Totalitarianism

The article comments on the ideas expounded by Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." The world political conditions when Arendt wrote her book were described. The political problems that Arendt tackled and the influence of philosopher Karl Jaspers on her are discussed. Arendt puts emphasis on the global development of phenomena such as homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth. She writes that wherever totalitarianism has ruled it has begun to destroy the essence of man.

 

Claude Lefort
Thinking With and Against Hannah Arendt

The article analyzes the ideas presented by Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." Arendt's attribution of the origin of totalitarianism in mass terror is discussed. Her observations of communism in the Soviet Union and Nazism in Germany are presented. The role of organization in totalitarianism and the concept of law in totalitarianism are explained. Arendt wrote that because of its peculiar ideology and the rule assigned to the ideology in the apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.

 

Jonathan Schell
A Politics of Natality

The article comments on the ideas of philosopher Hannah Arendt. Political problems facing the contemporary world which Arendt tackled . Importance of the ideas of Arendt to understanding the present political realities is discussed. In Arendt's work, it could be found that natality is the mother of action, action is the locus of freedom and a source of power, power gives life to politics. Political action generates the common world and when stabilized by the foundation of the polis, provides an immortal home for otherwise mortal beings.

 

Andrew Arato
Dictatorship Before and After Totalitarianism

The article comments on the notions of dictatorship and totalitarianism tackled by Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." The totalitarian rulers in Germany and the Soviet Union are presented. The correlation between dictatorship and totalitarianism is discussed. The institution of revolutionary dictatorship and its institution in the Soviet Union are tackled. Arendt juxtaposes totalitarianism not only to traditional autocracies but to modern military and one-party dictatorship as well. According to her, total domination is the only form of government with which coexistence is not possible.

 

Jeffrey Isaac
Hannah Arendt on Human Rights and the Limits of Exposure, or Why Noam Chomsky Is Wrong about the Meaning of Kosovo

The article argues that the political theory advanced by Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism" is relevant to the politics of human rights. The reconstruction of Arendt's political views are discussed. The contrast of the ideas of Arendt and Noam Chomsky is presented. The concept of political responsibility is discussed. Chomsky has articulated a powerful critique of the discourse of human rights. Certain conclusions are drawn about the importance of human rights and the limits of a politics of exposure.

 

Seyla Benhabib
Political Geographies in a Global World: Arendtian Reflections

The article comments on the ideas of political philosopher Hannah Arendt. The importance of Arendt's ideas in understanding the problem facing the nation-states global community after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States is discussed. The problem of totalitarianism and Arendt's view about human rights are tackled. The paradoxes of the Western civilization are presented. The totalitarian regimes of the mid-twentieth century strengthened and rebuilt the state by rendering it subservient to their ideologies.

 

Elizabeth Young-Bruehl
On the Origins of a New Totalitarianism

The article comments on the ideas presented by Hannah Arendt in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." The relevance of her ideas to the present problem facing the Western civilization after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US are discussed. The unprecedented effects of the terrorist attacks on the politics of the US and that of the world are tackled. When Arendt made the claim that totalitarianism was a novel form of government, she took it as her responsibility to say what was unprecedented. She understood that to oppose a totalitarian regime effectively required isolating the features making this form of government novel.

 

Roy Tsao
The Three Phases of Arendt's Theory of Totalitarianism

This essay traces the three distinct phases of Arendt’s thought on Nazism and Bolshevism that correspond to the three successive phases of The Origins of Totalitarianism’s composition: her original, unabandoned theory of Nazi “race imperialism”; her first theory of totalitarianism; and the revised version of that theory. All three of these phases are in evidence in the text of The Origins of Totalitariansim as it stands. For this reason, a clarification of the differences between them can serve to account for the incongruities in the book’s overall contents and organization. Consideration of each of the three phases in turn allows for a more precise understanding of the aims and structure of Arendt’s arguments in each.

 

Jerome Kohn
Arendt’s Concept and Description of Totalitarianism

The article focuses on how Hannah Arendt described totalitarianism in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism." The concept of totalitarian regimes of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union is discussed. The reason for the difficulty of understanding totalitarianism is tackled. Arendt insists that totalitarianism made clear the uselessness of causality as a category of historical thought and exploded the standards of political judgment insofar as they are grounded in traditional moral and legal principles.

Recommended Reading

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, Part I

Hannah Arendt, Part II

Philosophy and Politics: Hannah Arendt

 

 

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