Hannah Arendt: Key Concepts
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Hannah Arendt is one of the most prominent thinkers of modern times, whose profound influence extends across philosophy, politics, law, history, international relations, sociology, and literature. Presenting new and powerful ways to think about human freedom and responsibility, Arendt's work has provoked intense debate and controversy. 'Hannah Arendt: Key Concepts' explores the central ideas of Arendt's thought, such as freedom, action, power, judgement, evil, forgiveness and the social. Bringing together an international team of contributors, the essays provide lucid accounts of Arendt's fundamental themes and their ethical and political implications. The specific concepts Arendt deployed to make sense of the human condition, the phenomena of political violence, terror and totalitarianism, and the prospects of sustaining a shared public world are all examined. 'Hannah Arendt: Key Concepts' consolidates the disparate strands of Arendt's thought to provide an accessible and essential guide for anybody who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of this leading intellectual figure.
opinions: “No one is capable of forming his own opinion without the benefit of a multitude of opinions held by others” (Arendt 1963: 225). Therefore, opinions are only possible for those who belong to a community of others. (Remember that in “We Refugees”, when speaking about the loss of belonging, Arendt explicitly complained about the refugees’ lack of opinions.) In other words, the critical simultaneity of acting and belonging – that is, responsibility – is manifested in the making of
of his own life story, because one cannot control how others will remember particular actions (ibid.). In fact, the narrative about an action can change over time, if new facets of the act are later revealed or if the community itself changes, and therefore, the public reception of the act may change. Unlike objects, which can be shaped and controlled through human fabrication, human beings are not materials to be managed (ibid.: 188). Actions are unpredictable, and result in disclosures of
Communist and Jewish political figures escaping Hitler’s regime. One of those forced to flee was her husband Günther Stern, who left for Paris as the Gestapo began sweeping up leftists days after the Reichstag fire. Remaining in Berlin, Arendt also carried out clandestine research in the Prussian State Library for her friend Kurt Blumenfeld, secretary general of the Zionist Federation of Germany, in order to document anti-Semitic statements made by German civil society groups, business
power are typically original and independent, departing from and challenging both the individualist and the structuralist approaches, seeing the world through a very different frame from either Marxism or neo-Weberianism. For Arendt power cannot be a property of an individual – it is only even a potential when people come together in a way that can result in action in concert, or cooperative effort (Arendt 1963: 175). We shouldn’t even think of it as a capacity, like horsepower, which is reliably
from her early article, “We Refugees”, to the Eichmann trial and beyond. I shall first establish a short genealogy of “responsibility” in Arendt’s work, showing that she used the term in the distinct contexts of belonging to a political community, and acting as an individual. In the second part of the chapter, I will explore Arendt’s phenomenology of action, and demonstrate that acting is inseparable from suffering. In conclusion, I will show that in democratic societies, the simultaneity of