Hannah Arendt from a 1988 German stamp
among the Women in German history series
14 October 1906|
Linden, German Empire (present-day Hanover, Germany)
|Died||4 December 1975
New York City, United States
|Nationality||Prussia (till 1937)
United States (1951)
|Alma mater||University of Marburg
University of Heidelberg
|Political theory, modernity, philosophy of history|
|Homo faber, animal laborans, the labor–work distinction, banality of evil, vita activa and vita contemplativa, praxis as the highest level of the vita activa, auctoritas, natality|
Johanna "Hannah" Arendt (// or //; German: [ˈaːʀənt]; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-born political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular" and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that "men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world." An assimilated Jew, she escaped Europe during the Holocaust and became an American citizen. Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Works
- 3 Legacy
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 Commemoration
- 6 Selected works
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Life and career
Arendt was born into a secular family of German Jews in Linden (present-day Hanover), the daughter of Martha (born Cohn) and Paul Arendt. She grew up in Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad and annexed to the Soviet Union in 1946) and Berlin. At the University of Marburg, she studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger.
According to Hans Jonas, her only German-Jewish classmate, Arendt embarked on a long and stormy romantic relationship with Heidegger, for which she later was criticized because of Heidegger's support for the Nazi Party when he was rector at the University of Freiburg.
In the wake of one of their breakups, Arendt moved to Heidelberg, where she wrote her dissertation under the existentialist philosopher-psychologist Karl Jaspers on the concept of love in the thought of Saint Augustine. In 1929, in Berlin, she married Günther Stern, later known as Günther Anders. (They divorced in 1937.) The dissertation was published in 1929. Arendt was prevented from "habilitating"—a prerequisite for teaching in German universities—because she was Jewish. She researched anti-Semitism for some time before being arrested and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1933.
In 1933, Arendt left Germany for Czechoslovakia and then Geneva, where she worked for some time at the League of Nations before leaving for Paris, where she befriended the Marxist literary critic and philosopher, Walter Benjamin, her first husband's cousin. While in France, she worked to support and aid Jewish refugees. In 1937, she was stripped of her German citizenship. In 1940, she married the German poet and Marxist philosopher Heinrich Blücher, a former member of the Communist Party of Germany. Later that year, after the German military occupation of northern France, the Vichy regime began deportation of foreign Jews to concentration camps in the unoccupied south of France, and she was interned in Camp Gurs as an "enemy alien".
Like many others Arendt was able to leave Gurs after a few weeks and left France in 1941 with her husband and her mother via Portugal to the United States. They relied on visas illegally issued by the American diplomat Hiram Bingham, who aided roughly 2,500 Jewish refugees in this way. Varian Fry, another American humanitarian, paid for their travel and helped obtain the visas. Upon arriving in New York, Arendt became active in the German-Jewish community. From 1941–45, she wrote a column for the German-language Jewish newspaper, Aufbau. From 1944, she directed research for the Commission of European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction and traveled frequently to Germany in this capacity.
After World War II, she returned to Germany and worked for Youth Aliyah, a Zionist organization, which saved thousands of children from the Holocaust and settled them in the British Mandate of Palestine. She became a close friend of Karl Jaspers and his wife, developing a deep intellectual friendship with him. She began corresponding with American author Mary McCarthy around this time.
In 1950, Arendt became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She served as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, and Northwestern University. In 1959, she was named the first female lecturer at Princeton. She also taught at the University of Chicago from 1963 to 1967, where she was a member of the Committee on Social Thought; The New School in Manhattan; Yale University, where she was a fellow; and, the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University (1961–62, 1962–63).
Arendt was instrumental in the creation in 1974 of Structured Liberal Education (SLE) at Stanford University. She wrote a letter to the then president of Stanford University to persuade the university to enact Mark Mancall's vision of a residentially-based humanities program.
The Origins of Totalitarianism
Arendt's first major book was titled The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which traced the roots of Stalinism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism. The book was opposed by the Left on the grounds that it presented the two movements as equally tyrannical. She further contends that Jewry was not the operative factor in the Holocaust, but merely a convenient proxy. Totalitarianism in Germany was, in the end, about terror and consistency, not eradicating Jews only.
The Human Condition
In what is arguably her most influential work, The Human Condition (1958), Arendt distinguishes between the concepts "political" and "social", and "labor" and "work", and between various forms of action, and then explores the implications of those distinctions. Her theory of political action, corresponding to the existence of a public realm, is extensively developed in this work. Arendt argues that, while human life always evolves within societies, the social-being part of human nature, political life, has been intentionally constructed by only a few of these societies as a space for individuals to achieve freedom through the construction of a common world. These conceptual categories, which attempt to bridge the gap between ontological and sociological structures, are sharply delineated. While Arendt relegates labor and work to the realm of the "social", she favors the human condition of action as the "political" that is both existential and aesthetic.
Men in Dark Times
Her collection of essays, Men in Dark Times, presents intellectual biographies of some creative and moral figures of the twentieth century, such as Walter Benjamin, Karl Jaspers, Rosa Luxemburg, Hermann Broch, Pope John XXIII, and Isak Dinesen.
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), she coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe the phenomenon of Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction. She was sharply critical of the way the trial was conducted in Israel. She also was critical of the way that some Jewish leaders, notably M. C. Rumkowski, acted during the Holocaust. This caused a considerable controversy and even animosity toward Arendt in the Jewish community. Her friend Gershom Scholem, a major scholar of Jewish mysticism, broke off relations with her. Arendt was criticized by many Jewish public figures, who charged her with coldness and lack of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust. Because of this lingering criticism, neither this book nor any of her other works were translated into Hebrew until 1999.
Arendt ended the book by writing:
Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.
Arendt presents a comparison of two of the main revolutions of the eighteenth century, the American and French Revolutions. She goes against a common view of both Marxist and leftist views when she argues that France, while well studied and often emulated, was a disaster and that the largely ignored American Revolution was a success. The turning point in the French Revolution occurred when the leaders rejected their goals of freedom in order to focus on compassion for the masses. In America, the Founding Fathers never betray the goal of Constitutio Libertatis. However, Arendt believes the revolutionary spirit of those men had been lost, and advocates a “council system” as an appropriate institution to regain that spirit.
Arendt's essay On Violence distinguishes between violence and power. She maintains that, although theorists of both the Left and Right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power, the two concepts are, in fact, antithetical. Power comes from the collective will and does not need violence to achieve any of its goals, since voluntary compliance takes its place. As governments start losing their legitimacy, violence becomes an artificial means toward the same end and is, therefore, found only in the absence of power. Bureaucracies then become the ideal birthplaces of violence since they are defined as the "rule by no one" against whom to argue and, therefore, recreate the missing links with the people they rule over.
The Life of the Mind
Her posthumous book, The Life of the Mind (1978, edited by Mary McCarthy), remained incomplete. During Arendt's tenure at the New School in 1974, she presented a graduate level Political Philosophy class entitled, "Philosophy of the Mind." It was during these class lectures, that Arendt crystalized her concepts. The class was based on her working draft of "Philosophy of the Mind," which was later edited to "Life of the Mind." Arendt's working draft of Philosophy of the Mind was distributed to graduate students at the New School during her visiting professorship in 1974. Her work was the culmination of a lifelong concentration on a theory of Dialectic Materialism, whose proponents came to be known as The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Such famous social and political scientists as Jurgen Habermas and Herbert Marcuse were also members of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Also, stemming from her Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, her last writing focused on the mental faculties of thinking and willing. In a sense Life of the Mind went beyond her previous work concerning the vita activa. In her discussion of thinking, she focuses mainly on Socrates and his notion of thinking as a solitary dialogue between Me and Myself. This appropriation of Socrates leads her to introduce novel concepts of conscience (which gives no positive prescriptions, but instead, tells me what I cannot do if I would remain friends with myself when I re-enter the two-in-one of thought where I must render an account of my actions to myself) and morality (an entirely negative enterprise concerned with non-participation in certain actions for the sake of remaining friends with one's self).
In the intended third volume of The Life of Mind, Arendt was planning to engage the faculty of judgment by appropriating Kant's Critique of Judgment; however, she did not live to write it. Nevertheless, although her notion of judging remains unknown, Arendt did leave manuscripts (such as Thinking and Moral Considerations and Some Questions on Moral Philosophy) and lectures (Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy) concerning her thoughts on this mental faculty. The first two articles were edited and published by Jerome Kohn, an assistant of Arendt and a director of the Hannah Arendt Center at The New School in New York, and the last was edited and published by Ronald Beiner, professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Her personal library was deposited at Bard College at the Stevenson Library in 1976, and includes approximately 4,000 books, ephemera, and pamphlets from Arendt's last apartment. The college has begun archiving some of the collection digitally, which is available at The Hannah Arendt Collection.
In popular culture
- The German film Hannah Arendt (2012) by director Margarethe von Trotta was based on a screenplay by Pamela Katz and the director; it focused on the era in Arendt's life when she reported for The New Yorker on the war crimes trial of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann.
- The Latin American Spanglish novel Yo-Yo Boing! (1998) by Giannina Braschi features a comic scene in which artists, poets, and philosophers debate Arendt’s theories, citing “The Owl of Minerva” and Buridan’s Ass.
- The Unemployed Philosophers Guild produces magnetic finger puppets of Arendt as a novelty toy; the puppet wears a beret and a mustache.
- The asteroid 100027 Hannaharendt is named in her honor.
- The German railway authority operates a Hannah Arendt Express between Karlsruhe and Hanover.
- The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College is named in her honor.
- The Hannah Arendt Institute for the Research on Totalitarianism is named in her honor.
- The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor.
- Various gymnasiums (German high schools) have been dedicated to Arendt.
- The photographer Fred Stein has taken a portrait of Hannah Arendt which has become famous.
- In 2012, a German film titled Hannah Arendt was released, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, and with Barbara Sukowa in the role of Arendt. The film concentrates on the Eichmann trial, and the controversy caused by Arendt's book, which at the time was widely misunderstood as defending Eichmann and blaming Jewish leaders for the Holocaust.
- In 2014, Google Doodle celebrates her 108th birthday.
- In 2014, the French philosopher Michel Onfray devoted a series of lectures broadcast on the national French radio station France Culture to an analysis of the work of Arendt.
- Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin. Versuch einer philosophischen Interpretation (1929).
- The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Revised ed.; New York: Schocken, 2004. (Includes all the prefaces and additions from the 1958, 1968, and 1972 editions.)
- The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).
- Rahel Varnhagen: the life of a Jewess. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston (1958). Complete ed.; Ed. Liliane Weissberg (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), also in March 2000. 400 pages. ISBN 978-0-8018-6335-6.
- Die ungarische Revolution und der totalitäre Imperialismus (1958).
- Between Past and Future: Six exercises in political thought (New York: Viking, 1961). (Two more essays were added in 1968.)
- On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963).
- Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). (Rev. ed. New York: Viking, 1968.)
- Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968).
- On Violence. Harvest Books (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970). (Also included in Crises of the Republic.)
- Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972). "Civil Disobedience" originally appeared, in somewhat different form, in The New Yorker. Versions of the other essays originally appeared in The New York Review of Books.
- The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age, edited with an introduction by Ron H. Feldman (1978).
- Life of the Mind, unfinished at her death, Ed. Mary McCarthy, 2 vols. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978). ISBN 0-15-107887-4.
- Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers Correspondence, 1926–1969. Edited by Lotte Kohler and Hans Saner, translated by Robert Kimber and Rita Kimber (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992).
- Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954: Formation, Exile, and Totalitarianism, Ed. Jerome Kohn (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1994). Paperback reprint edition, September 10, 1983, ISBN 0-300-03099-1. Paperback ed. (New York: Schocken, 2005).
- Love and Saint Augustine. Edited with an Interpretive Essay by Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott and Judith Chelius Scott (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996/1998).
- Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy. Edited and with an Interpretive Essay by Ronald Beiner (The University of Chicago Press, 1992).
- Within Four Walls: The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher, 1936-1968. Edited by Lotte Kohler, translated by Peter Constantine (New York: Harcourt, 1996).
- Responsibility and Judgment. Edited with an introduction by Jerome Kohn (New York: Schocken, 2003).
- Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Letters, 1925–1975, Ed. Ursula Ludz, translated Andrew Shields (New York: Harcourt, 2004).
- The Promise of Politics. Edited with an Introduction by Jerome Kohn (New York: Schocken, 2005).
- Arendt und Benjamin: Texte, Briefe, Dokumente. Edited by Detlev Schöttker and Erdmut Wizisla (2006).
- The Jewish Writings. Edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman. Schocken Books (2007).
- Fry, Karin, "Arendt, Hannah" in Women-philosophers.com.
- "Arendt" entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Section 4
- Kelsey Wood (Pulaski Technical College). "Hannah Arendt bio at Literary Encyclopedia". Litencyc.com. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- "Arendt". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
- Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998.
- John McGowan (15 December 1997). Hannah Arendt: An Introduction. University of Minnesota Press.
- Sznaider, Natan (20 October 2006). "Human, citizen, Jew". Haaretz. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- Cullen-DuPont, Kathryn (1 August 2000). Encyclopedia of women's history in America. Infobase Publishing. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-8160-4100-8. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- Arendt, Hannah; Jaspers, Karl (1992). Correspondence 1926-1969. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-107887-4.
- Arendt, Hannah; McCarthy, Mary (1995). Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975. Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0-436-20251-4.
- Pfeffer, Anshel (9 May 2008). "Dear Hannah". Haaretz. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- Guide to the Center for Advanced Studies Records, 1958–1969 at Wesleyan University
- "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
- "Deceased Members". American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
- Bird, David (6 December 1975). "Hannah Arendt, Political Scientist, Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
- "Arendt" entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Section 3
- Elon, Amos. Introduction. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. By Hannah Arendt. New York: Penguin, 2006, xxi.
- "Hannah Arendt Collection at Stevenson Library, Bard College". Bard.edu. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- Yo-Yo Boing!, Introduction by Doris Sommer, Harvard University. Latin American Literary Review Press. 1998. ISBN 0-935480-97-8.
- Shenhav, Yehouda (3 May 2007). "All aboard the Arendt express". Haaretz. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- "Hannah Arendt Gymnasium, Haßloch". Hagh.bildung-rp.de. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- "Hannah Arendt Gymnasium, Barsinghausen" (in German). Han-nah.de. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- "Hannah Arendt Gymnasium, Lengerich" (in German). Hag-lengerich.de. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- "Hannah Arendt Gymnasium, Berlin" (in German). Hag-berlin.net. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- Kasper Heinrich: Fotografien von Fred Stein: Der Poet mit der Kleinbildkamera. Der Spiegel 11/19, 2013
- Shenhav Yehouda (2013) “Beyond ‘instrumental rationality’: Lord Cromer and the imperial roots of Eichmann’s bureaucracy”. Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 15, Issue 4, pp: 379-399
- "Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and how Evil Isn't Banal" online lecture by Dr. Yaacov Lozowick, former Director of the Yad Vashem Archives
- Brandes, Daniel (2010). "Nietzsche, Arendt, and the Promise of the Future" (PDF). Animus 14. ISSN 1209-0689. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth (1982), Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, Yale University Press; ISBN 0-300-02660-9. (Paperback reprint edition, 10 September 1983; ISBN 0-300-03099-1; Second edition 11 October 2004; ISBN 0-300-10588-6.)
- Young-Bruehl, E. 2010. "Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)". Who's Afraid of Social Democracy.
- Young-Bruehl, E. 2010. "Arendt's Jewish Identity". Who's Afraid of Social Democracy.
- Young-Bruehl, E. 2000. "Hannah Arendt in American Intellectual Life" (2000). Who's Afraid of Social Democracy.
- Young-Bruehl, E. Why Arendt Matters. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2006 (hardcover); ISBN 0-300-12044-3
- Villa, Dana, ed. (2000), The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt, Cambridge University Press; ISBN 978-0-521-64571-3 (hb).
- Villa, Dana (1995), Arendt and Heidegger: the Fate of the Political, Princeton University Press' ISBN 0-691-04400-7.
- Villa, Dana (1999), Politics, Philosophy, Terror: Essays on the Thought of Hannah Arendt, Princeton University Press; ISBN 0-691-00935-X.
- Villa, Dana (2008), Public Freedom, Princeton University Press; ISBN 978-0-691-13594-6.
- Harms, Klaus. Hannah Arendt und Hans Jonas. Grundlagen einer philosophischen Theologie der Weltverantwortung. Berlin: WiKu-Verlag (2003). ISBN 3-936749-84-1 (in German)
- Ettinger, Elzbieta. Hannah Arendt/Martin Heidegger, Yale University Press (1997); ISBN 0-300-07254-6.
- Dietz, Mary G. Turning Operations: Feminism, Arendt, and Politics, Routledge (2002); ISBN 0-415-93244-0.
- Kristeva, Julia. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Ross Guberman. Columbia University Press. 2001; ISBN 978-0-231-12102-6
- Sheldon, Garrett Ward. The History of Political Theory: Ancient Greece to Modern America. Peter Lang Publishing (2007); ISBN 978-0-8204-0848-4 (hbk)/ISBN 978-0-8204-2300-5 (pbk)
- Avineri, Shlomo. "Where Hannah Arendt Went Wrong", Haaretz, 10 March 2010.
- Benhabib, Seyla. The Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2003. ISBN 978-0-7425-2151-3
- Nedelsky, Jennifer & Ronald Beiner, ed. Judgment, Imagination, and Politics: Themes from Kant and Arendt. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2001; ISBN 978-0-8476-9971-1
- Birmingham, Peg. Hannah Arendt and Human Rights: The Predicament of Common Responsibility. Indian University Press (2006); ISBN 978-0-253-21865-0
- Passerin d'Entrèves, Maurizio. The Political Philosophy of Hannah Arendt. New York: Routledge, 1994; ISBN 978-0-415-08790-2
- Keen, David. 2007. Learning About the Iraq War from Hannah Arendt. Counterpunch. 24 September 2007.
- Jakopovich, Daniel. Hannah Arendt and Nonviolence, Peace Studies Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, Fall 2009
- Berkowitz, Roger & Thomas Keenan, Jeffrey Katz, ed. Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics Fordham University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-0-8232-3076-1
- Susan, Visvanathan. "Hannah Arendt and the Problem of our Age", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XXXVI No. 16, 21 April 2001
- Zamora, J.A. y Arribas, S. (Coord). "Hannah Arendt. Pensar en tiempos sombríos.". Arbor, Vol 186, No 742 (2010). Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. doi:10.3989/arbor.2010.i742 (in Spanish).
- Hansen, Phillip Birger. Hannah Arendt: politics, history and citizenship. Stanford University Press, 1993; ISBN 978-0-8047-2145-5
- Kopić, Mario. Otkucaji drugoga/The Beats of the Other. Belgrade: Službeni glasnik, 2013; ISBN 978-86-519-1721-2
- Slonem, Marc. Men in Dark Times. The New York Times Book Review, November 17, 1968, p.6.
- Media related to Hannah Arendt at Wikimedia Commons
- Quotations related to Hannah Arendt at Wikiquote
- Hannah Arendt Center infosite
- "Beware of pity - 'Hannah Arendt and the power of the impersonal'" by Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, January 12, 2009.
- Works written by or about Hannah Arendt at Wikisource
- Hannah Arendt personal papers collection at the Library of Congress contains her personal archive, with scanned portions available on the internet.
- New York Review of Books (subscription-based essays)
- Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Hannah Arendt entry by Maurizio Passerin d'Entreves in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Hannah Arendt profile, in Paula Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America. New York: Routledge, 1997.
- Works about Arendt:
- The Role of Experience in Hannah Arendt's Political Thought: Three Essays by Jerome Kohn
- "Hannah Arendt: Practice, Thought and Judgement"
- Vogel, Lawrence A. "The Responsibility of Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt versus Hans Jonas". Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 2008: 253–293.
- IMDb profile of Margarethe von Trotta's 2012 film on Arendt