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2018 100/10 Challenge – An Open Letter from Director, Roger Berkowitz

The tradition of American civil disobedience is defining citizenship today. From the rise of the Tea Party, Patriots, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, antifa, #metoo, protests against gun violence, sanctuary cities, and #fake news, to the fundamentalist baker in Colorado, we are experiencing a new wave of political resistance.

Civil disobedience succeeds when it expresses new ideas that inspire the majority. Hannah Arendt celebrated the activism of student protestors in the 1960s, but she criticized their lack of new ideas and desire to transform the revolutionary moment into a political revolution. Without a thoughtful politics, the violence of so-called revolutionaries is nothing more than protest. In order for civil disobedience to become a revolutionary political movement it must imagine a more legitimate and just world. This is the challenge of movements like Black Lives Matter, the Resistance, and the Tea Party.

“‘As soon as several inhabitants of the United States have taken up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the world,’ or have found some fault they wish to correct, ‘they look out for mutual assistance, and as soon as they have found one another out, they combine. From that moment, they are no longer isolated men but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example and whose language is listened to.’ It is my contention that civil disobedients are nothing but the latest form of voluntary association, and that they are thus quite in tune with the oldest traditions of the country.”

-Hannah Arendt, On Civil Disobedience (citing Alexis de Tocqueville)

The emergence of civil disobedience today reflects the dissensus around social questions of economic and racial equality as well as discrimination, immigration, and the uses of American power abroad. At the same time, the rise in civil disobedience is evidence of a revival in public spirit and citizenship.

For Arendt, civil disobedience was a treasured part of the American tradition, embedded in the very fabric of our country. To participate in civil disobedience is to engage as a citizen, not through individual acts of conscience, but through collective political action. Civil disobedience is an act of citizenship by which minorities can change the minds of majorities. Those who engage in civil disobedience are not traitors, rebels, or anti-American; they are a vital part of American democracy.

Arendt saw that collective action challenges cynicism, despair, and hopelessness. In times of mass cynicism, we need to join together and affirm common values.

The Hannah Arendt Center works to keep Arendt’s vision of loving the world alive even in the darkest times. Arendt’s courageous and deeply honest writings are more relevant than ever. On questions of authoritarianism, refugees, cynicism, and above all on the importance of truth-telling, Arendt can help us understand and rethink our present predicaments.

Today, to support this ongoing work, we launch our annual 100/10 Member Challenge: 100 new members in 10 days!

Freedom comes from acting in concert. Become a member of our Arendt Center community. To help make your decision easier, we have incredible member incentives.

  • Free Admission for you and a friend to “Citizenship and Civil Disobedience,” our 11th annual Fall Conference ($175 value)
  • Access to participate in the Arendt Center Virtual Reading Group
  • A one-year subscription to Salmagundi
  • All members will receive a 20% discount for one course at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
  • All members will receive a 30% discount on Richard Bernstein’s new book titled, Why Read Hannah Arendt Now
  • A Joint Membership with Los Angeles Review of Books and the Hannah Arendt Center at a special $175 Membership Level. You’ll receive a Free One Year Digital Membership to LARB as well as a Hannah Arendt LARB tote bag, in addition to a full $100 Hannah Arendt Center Membership ($300 value)
  • Members Receive Special invitations to Hannah Arendt Center lectures and events at Bard College and New York City
  • All members at the $100 Level and above will receive HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center Vol. VI and our 2018 Hannah Arendt Center Tote Bag
  • All new $100 level members will be entered into a Tote Bag Package Drawing, which includes HA: The Journal, Volumes 6, a copy of Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics, and our newly designed tote bag (pictured right)

Our memberships expire after one year. We ask that you take this time now to either become a member, or renew today if your membership has recently expired. If you’re unsure, please contact the Center at arendt@bard.edu. If you haven’t yet joined, we ask you to become part of our community.

All Members and a Guest receive complimentary access to our 11th annual fall conference, “Citizenship and Civil Disobedience,” that asks: Is civil disobedience an exemplary act of citizenship? Learn more and register here.

Speakers include: Kenyon Victor Adams, Micah White, Mark Bray, Sarah Jaffe, Seon-Wook Kim, Chiara Ricciardone, Judith Shulevitz, Allison Stanger, Uday Mehta, Leon Botstein, Debbie Dooley, Elizabeth Price Foley, Chantal Mouffe, Rebecca Saletan, Theda Skocpol, Renata Sith & Frieder Schnock, and more…

Bold thinking about politics in the humanist style of Hannah Arendt is profoundly necessary in our increasingly thoughtless era. The Arendt Center exists to nurture provocative thinking about politics and ethics. We are grateful for your confidence in us and your engagement in our work to build a community around the thinking of Hannah Arendt.

We thank you in advance and look forward to seeing you at our future events.

Roger Berkowitz

Posted on 22 July 2018 | 12:00 am

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