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“Once such an event as the spontaneous uprising in Hungary has happened, every policy, theory and forecast of future potentialities needs re-examination. In its light we must check and enlarge our understanding of the totalitarian form of government as well as of the nature of the totalitarianism version of imperialism.”

— Hannah Arendt, “Reflections on the Hungarian Revolution,” Epilogue to the second edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism

In 1960, two years after the publication of Arendt’s epilogue to Origins, C.L.R. James, Caribbean intellectual and activist, delivered a series of public lectures in Trinidad that would be published as Modern…


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Roger Berkowitz On May 31, 1887, William James gave a speech dedicating a monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts regiment that he led. The Massachusetts 54th was the first black regiment in the United States. Gould, an abolitionist, led the regiment into battle and he, along with many of the soldiers, was killed during an assault in 1863 on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. James’s speech deserves a full reading and account. He celebrates the black soldiers of the regiment, “the men who do brave deeds are usually unconscious of their picturesqueness.” He speaks of the “one…


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photo credit: Roger Berkowitz

Whether George Floyd died from asphyxiation or some combination of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” as the official Hennepin County autopsy has it, anyone can see that former police officer Derek Chauvin sat firmly on Mr. Floyd’s neck, left hand casually in his pocket as if bored, for over 8 minutes while three other officers calmly looked on. Even as observers on the scene screamed out the obvious — that former officer Chauvin was murdering George Floyd — the officers barely flinched in their slow-motion murder — murder of a gruesome kind. …


Roger Berkowitz

This essay was originally published in two parts in Amor Mundi the newsletter of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College.

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Giorgio Agamben

The European Journal of Psychoanalysis recently published a symposium “Coronavirus and Philosophers.” It begins with an excerpt from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish about the quarantine of a town during the plague in the 17th century.

The plague is met by order; its function is to sort out every possible confusion: that of the disease, which is transmitted when bodies are mixed together; that of the evil, which is increased when fear and death overcome prohibitions. It…


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In “Regarding the Cave” the Italian feminist philosopher Adriana Cavarero offers a reading of Plato’s allegory of the cave that expands on an interpretation of that same narrative by Hannah Arendt. Cavarero is perhaps the first to notice how Arendt’s remarks in “Tradition and the Modern Age,” “What is Authority?,” and The Human Condition connect, how together they form a spirited critique of Western philosophy, and how indispensable they are for a feminist reckoning with what might be called masculinist ontology. This last project is further developed by Cavarero in her monograph In Spite of Plato: A Feminist Rewriting of…


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This essay was first published on November 7, 2011

“While strength is the natural quality of an individual seen in isolation, power springs up between men when they act together and vanishes the moment they disperse.”

— Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (200).

To read this line from The Human Condition in the wake of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square, or in the midst of the Occupations that have radiated from Zuccotti Park across the United States and beyond, might be invigorating: aren’t both of these events expressions of power in Arendt’s sense, instances of the unpredictable human capacity to…


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“I am not at all disturbed about being a woman professor because I am quite used to being a woman.”

— Hannah Arendt, at Yale University 1968[i]

More often than I would like, my work on Hannah Arendt and my work as a feminist theorist and activist seem to pull in different directions. I sometimes find myself frustrated not only by Arendt’s relative silence on questions of gender and her occasional sexist remarks (among other things, she once remarked that it was unbecoming for women to occupy positions of authority),[ii] but also, like many feminist readers before me, I am…


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It is well-known that Hannah Arendt was a German Jewish political theorist who dedicated her life to understanding the meaning of political action in human life.[1] During the interview “Zur person” with Günther Gaus, Arendt points out that her interest in history and politics started in 1933. She took part as a political actor recompiling antisemitic statements; she was arrested and forced to emigrate from Germany the same year. …


Underlying beliefs that most of us share

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credit: Pixabay.com

“Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”

— Alasdair Gray

This phase of the U.S. Civil War was not of our choosing. But we’ve been complicit. First, by accepting many indolent assumptions, then by ignoring history.

Take the lesson of the Greatest Generation.


“To men the reality of the world is guaranteed by the presence of others… “

— Hannah Arendt

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In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt laid out her concept of the polis — literally, an ancient Greek city state, but defined more broadly in Webster’s as “a state or society especially when characterized by a sense of community” — as a departure from the ancient understanding of the term:

The polis, properly speaking, is not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together, and its true space…

The Hannah Arendt Center

The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College is an expansive home for thinking about and in the spirit of Hannah Arendt.

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