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Hannah Arendt: An Introduction

John McGowan
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Hannah Arendt
    Book Description:

    Firmly locating Arendt’s ideas in the context of our times, John McGowan here offers a clear, concise overview of Arendt’s work and its continuing importance. Explaining the theoretical and philosophical convictions that stood behind Arendt’s various-and often controversial-interventions in contemporary affairs, McGowan explores the new ways of thinking that Arendt’s work opens up regarding current issues such as human rights, identity politics, and participatory democracy. A concluding chapter connects Arendt’s thought to contemporary social theory and today’s political debates.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8875-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Usage and References
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Origins: Arendt’s Life and Coming to Terms with Totalitarianism
    (pp. 1-33)

    Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 in Hanover, Germany.¹ Her parents were both natives of Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia and home of Immanuel Kant, the philosopher to whose work Arendt would return at the end of her life. After World War II, Königsberg passed into Russian hands, was renamed Kaliningrad, and was used as a military center (closed to all outside visitors) until 1989. Today Kaliningrad is still part of Russia, although it is separated from the rest of the country by the Baltic states.

    Arendt’s parents, Paul and Martha Arendt, came from prosperous, although not wealthy, members...

  6. 2 Politics as Identity-Disclosing Action
    (pp. 34-95)

    To a large extent, Arendt’s mature political philosophy stems from a set of definitions the elaboration of which generates a whole world in which there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. “Utopia,” of course, means “no place,” but Arendt’s political vision is Utopian exactly in its rootedness, in its insistence on location. A man needs a place to stand up, asserts the novelist Ford Madox Ford, and the political—the public realm—is that place for Arendt, “the proper place for human excellence” (HC, 49). The polis is where each human being can be distinctive...

  7. 3 Understanding and Judging the Reality of Evil
    (pp. 96-149)

    It is always tempting to create a narrative of development when surveying a writer’s lifework. Sometimes the writer herself identifies a turning point, a moment of transformation or conversion. Arendt’s attendance at the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961 seemed such a turning point to Arendt. Confronted with Eichmann, Arendt “spoke of ‘the banality of evil.’ Behind that phrase, I held no thesis or doctrine, although I was dimly aware of the fact that it went counter to our tradition of thought—literary, theological, or philosophic—about the phenomenon of evil” (T, 3). Both the...

  8. 4 Arendt Now
    (pp. 150-180)

    To write about what Arendt means to us and has to offer usnowis to suppose that there is some way to define our present moment. For a short time in the 1960s, at the height of the Civil Rights and student movements and at the beginning of contemporary feminism, and then again in the early to middle 1980s, in the articulation of and debate about the term “postmodernism,” our era seemed to have a readily identifiable focus, a set of discernible concerns and conflicts. But the 1990s, like the 1970s, appear more diffuse, a decade of drifting defined...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 181-184)
  10. References
    (pp. 185-186)
  11. For Further Reading
    (pp. 187-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-194)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-195)