Spring, Walks, Talks
Finally, winter is gone.
Here’s a picture of Hannah Arendt enjoying some sun.
And a bit of Emily Dickinson:
"A Light exists in Spring Not present on the Year At any other period — When March is scarcely here"
And a note Mary McCarthy wrote to Hannah Arendt: a renewed dedication.
Essay: Thinking is Dangerous
“There are no dangerous thoughts for the simple reason that thinking itself is such a dangerous enterprise,” Hannah Arendt said in her final interview with the French author Roger Errera on French national television. Errera was asking Arendt what the 20th century might leave to the 21st by way of remembrance. And Arendt, in her usual fashion, turns the question around to discuss how “our inheritance has been left to us by no testament”, quoting the French poet, René Char.
Arendt was not presumptuous enough to include her work among those things which might be passed on from one century to the next, but she was well aware of the phenomenon of posthumous fame. Though, it is possible, having gained a certain amount of fame in her own lifetime, she discounted herself from this fate. And yet, Arendt has become one of the most famous political thinkers of the 20th century, and now 21st. According to her literary estate, today her books are selling thirty-fold.
When Arendt died in 1975, she was mostly known for her reportage on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s logistical mastermind. But when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 something shifted. Arendt’s 1951 masterpiece The Origins of Totalitarianismbecame a bestseller. As people began to try to understand what was happening in American politics they reached for her work from the mid-20th century to think about the world today.
The Origins of Totalitarianism was published in 1951, the same year Arendt received American citizenship after being a stateless refugee for nearly twenty years. The book, which is really three books in one—antisemitism, imperialism, and totalitarianism—documents the emergence of totalitarianism in the middle of the 20th century as a radically new form of government, grounded in the existential conditions of homelessness, rootlessness, and loneliness. She traces the elements that crystalized in the phenomenal appearances of Hitlerism and Bolshevism through the rise of the nation-state, the twin forces of imperialism and colonialism, and the collapse of the political, which gave rise to mass politics through ideology, propaganda, and unthinkable violence. It is an epic work.
But who was Hannah Arendt? And can her work help us to understand the human condition in the 21st century?
Continue reading here.
I hope you have a wonderful week!
I’ll be back Wednesday.
Podcast, events, talks, and promo codes below.
For the next few months there will be Arendt inspired events taking place around the country including film screenings, public talks, art installations, and performances. And at the center of this massive project is an eight episode podcast: Hannah Arendt: Between Worlds.
Walking Tour of Hannah Arendt’s New York City
Take a walk with me?
Sunday March 27th at 1pm.
Download the free self-guided audio walk here.
Chicago: I am on my way to Chicago this morning to give a talk at Valparaiso on loneliness Monday at 4pm. It is free an open to the public.
Washington, DC: If you find yourself in the Washington, DC area on March 30th I’ll be talking about the banality of evil now with Mohamed Amjahid at the Goethe Institut in DC at 6:30pm.
To celebrate the launch of Thinking is Dangerous the University of Chicago Press is offering a 30% discount on all Arendt titles with the promo code: ARENDT