Chapter

Totalitarianism, Modernity, and the Tradition

Dana R. Villa

in Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780520220560
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923669 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520220560.003.0008
Totalitarianism, Modernity, and the Tradition

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To what extent does Hannah Arendt view totalitarianism as a distinctively modern phenomenon, one that reveals essential aspects of our time? What is the connection between her conception of totalitarianism and the phenomenology of human activities laid out in The Human Condition? Finally, what is the link between the critique of the Western tradition of political philosophy she mounts in that book and her view of the “essence” of totalitarianism? Does Arendt believe that totalitarianism, most often regarded as the nihilistic negation of our tradition, is, in fact, a partial product of that tradition? If so, what possible (and plausible) connection can there be between Plato and Aristotle and Hitler and Stalin? This chapter sketches brief responses to the first two questions, and then devotes the bulk of the discussion to the third, the question of a possible link between the “great tradition” of Western political thought and totalitarianism. It focuses on this question out of a desire to clarify some suggestions made in the book Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; totalitarianism; The Human Condition; political philosophy; modernity

Chapter.  9410 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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