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The Anthem Companion to Hannah Arendt

The Anthem Companion to Hannah Arendt

Peter Baehr | Philip Walsh


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Book Details


The Anthem Companion to Hannah Arendt offers a unique collection of essays on one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers. The companion encompasses Arendt’s most salient arguments and major works – The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, Eichmann in Jerusalem, On Revolution and The Life of the Mind. The volume also examines Arendt’s intellectual relationships with Max Weber, Karl Mannheim and other key social scientists. Although written principally for students new to Arendt’s work, The Anthem Companion to Hannah Arendt also engages the most avid Arendt scholar.

Peter Baehr is professor of social theory at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. He is the author of Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism and the Social Sciences (2010) and the editor of The Portable Hannah Arendt (2002).

Philip Walsh is associate professor and chair of sociology at York University, Toronto. He has published articles in the areas of social theory, political sociology and the sociology of knowledge. He is the author of Arendt Contra Sociology: Theory, Society and Its Science (2015) and Skepticism, Modernity and Critical Theory (2005).

As recently as 2000, Hannah Arendt was considered an esoteric author within the fields of humanities and social science. Since that time, Arendt has moved from the fringes of intellectual discussion toward its center. A number of developments have driven this reappraisal: the renewed respectability of the concept of totalitarianism; the appearance of post-Nazi/Bolshevik genocidal movements in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East; the reemergence of stateless people; and the revival of interest in civil/classical republicanism as a political alternative to liberalism and socialism. All of these events evoke Arendtian themes. The greater porousness between the humanities and social sciences in recent years, as a result of the impetus toward trans-disciplinary studies, has encouraged academics to move across intellectual borders. Arendt, a wide-ranging thinker with much to say about politics, society, science, history, aesthetics, philosophy and education, is a natural beneficiary of this process.

Extant compendiums of Arendt's work show a strong bias toward philosophy and political theory. In contrast, The Anthem Companion to Hannah Arendt is written principally by sociologists and authors with a keen interest in sociology and social theory. The result is a genuinely original contribution to Arendt studies. Written with the higher level undergraduate student in mind yet sufficiently challenging to engage readers well versed in her work, the book examines Arendt's most important books as they bear on modern social theories, issues and disputes. Her key conceptual distinctions – totalitarianism and dictatorship; labor, work, action; power and violence; thinking, willing and judging – are clarified. The controversies in which Arendt was caught up – notably over the 'banality of evil' epitomized by Adolf Eichmann – are explained. The result enables students to grasp a fully rounded understanding of Arendt's contribution to social inquiry. Written by a distinguished group of international scholars, the clear descriptions and stimulating interpretations of The Anthem Companion to Hannah Arendt bring Arendt's work into the forefront of sociological discussion.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover Cover 1
Front Matter i
Half-title i
Series information ii
Title page iii
Copyright information iv
Dedication v
Table of contents vii
Editors’ Introduction: Arendt’s Critique of the Social Sciences 1
The Purpose and Distinctiveness of This Book 2
A Biographical Sketch 2
Hannah Arendt’s Appraisal of the Social Sciences 5
The critique of Karl Mannheim 6
The originality of totalitarianism 8
The social viewpoint and the triad of activities 10
Politics and appearance 15
Process, causation and explanation 18
Conclusion 20
Notes 21
References 21
Part I Books 23
Chapter 1-5 23
Chapter 1 Arendt and Totalitarianism 25
Introduction 25
Totalitarianism between the Political and the Social 25
The Book 29
Arendt’s Theory of Totalitarianism 30
Classlessness 33
Organization 35
Ideology 38
The camps 40
Criticisms 43
Totalitarianism Today 45
References 46
Chapter 2 The Human Condition and The Theory of Action 49
Action and Praxis 49
The sociological approach to action 49
Aristotle’s conception 50
Action and politics 51
Arendt’s Projects 52
Return to the Greeks and to Kant 52
The subject 53
Action, Labor and Work 54
What is action? 54
Action and consequences 55
The division 56
The Social and the Political 58
The social versus the political 58
Political action 60
Freedom and influence 61
History and Life 62
The futility of life 62
The polis and history 63
Rise of animal laborans 64
Science and Behavior 65
Man and himself 65
Sociology 66
Conclusion 68
Notes 69
References 72
Chapter 3 Eichmann in Jerusalem: Heuristic Myth and Social Science 75
Occasion and Sources 76
Black Comedy: A Question of Tone 77
Dual Foci 79
Competing Portraits and Narratives 80
Arendt before Jerusalem 85
Ambiguity and Renown 90
Anti-Semite? Sadist? Helpless Cog? 91
A Compelling Fiction 94
Thinking about Thinking 96
No Time to Think: Common Processes, Different Outcomes 98
Conclusion 100
Notes 101
References 102
Chapter 4 “The Perplexities of Beginning”: Hannah Arendt’s Theory of Revolution 107
Introduction 107
1963: The Most Creative Period in Arendt’s Career 108
Arendt’s Concepts of Modernity and Revolution 110
Three Key Themes in On Revolution 112
Philosophy versus sociology 112
The American versus the French Revolution 114
The perplexities of beginning 117
Anti-intellectual Receptions of an Antisocial Text 118
Arendt and the Civil Rights Movement 124
Note 125
References 125
Chapter 5 The Life of The Mind of Hannah Arendt 129
What’s in the Book 130
Some More on the Life of the Mind 146
Notes 151
References 151
Part II Selected Themes 153
Chapter 6-9 153
Chapter 6 Hannah Arendt on Thinking, Personhood and Meaning 155
Introduction 155
Thinking and Morality 156
What Is Thinking? 163
What Makes Us Think? 167
Sociological Theories of Thinking and Reflexivity 169
Conclusion 172
Notes 172
References 173
Chapter 7 Explaining Genocide: Hannah Arendt and The Social-Scientific Concept of Dehumanization 175
Making Human Beings, as Human Beings, Superfluous: Hannah Arendt and the Elements of Dehumanization 179
Overcoming Moral Restraints: Hannah Arendt and the Sociology of Dehumanization 182
Overcoming Empathy: Hannah Arendt and the Social Psychology of Dehumanization 185
A Critique of Empathy: Hannah Arendt and the Impersonal Imagination 187
Conclusion: Empathy and Explanation 190
References 194
Chapter 8 Arendt on Power and Violence 197
1. Regarding Method: Spectators, Phenomenology and Worldliness 198
2. Makers’ Violence, Actors’ Power and Their Place in the World 201
3. Concerning Some Current Ideas of “Power” 207
3.1 Habermas and the normative use of empirical diagnoses 208
3.2 Lukes and the debate on “power” in the social sciences 211
4. Conclusion 214
Notes 215
References 217
Chapter 9 The Theory of Totalitarian Leadership 221
Introduction 221
Masses 221
Fascination without Charisma 225
What Do Totalitarian Leaders Do? 230
Mechanisms of Movement 233
Indispensable-Dispensable Leaders 238
Hannah Arendt and Covert Sociology 241
Notes 245
References 247
End Matter 249
References 249
Notes on Contributors 267
Index 269