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Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem$
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Steven Aschheim

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520220560

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520220560.001.0001

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Totalitarianism, Modernity, and the Tradition

Totalitarianism, Modernity, and the Tradition

Chapter:
(p.124) Totalitarianism, Modernity, and the Tradition
Source:
Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem
Author(s):

Dana R. Villa

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520220560.003.0008

To what extent does Hannah Arendt view totalitarianism as a distinctively modern phenomenon, one that reveals essential aspects of our time? What is the connection between her conception of totalitarianism and the phenomenology of human activities laid out in The Human Condition? Finally, what is the link between the critique of the Western tradition of political philosophy she mounts in that book and her view of the “essence” of totalitarianism? Does Arendt believe that totalitarianism, most often regarded as the nihilistic negation of our tradition, is, in fact, a partial product of that tradition? If so, what possible (and plausible) connection can there be between Plato and Aristotle and Hitler and Stalin? This chapter sketches brief responses to the first two questions, and then devotes the bulk of the discussion to the third, the question of a possible link between the “great tradition” of Western political thought and totalitarianism. It focuses on this question out of a desire to clarify some suggestions made in the book Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, totalitarianism, The Human Condition, political philosophy, modernity

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