“Human plurality, the basic condition of both action and speech, has the twofold character of equality and distinction.” Arendt sets plurality as the foundation of her understanding of man as a political being. According to plurality, we are all equal, which means we can understand each other and those ancestors who came before us and those will come after us. And yet, as distinct, we need to seek to make ourselves understood.
Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility has become a bestseller and a symbol, not to mention a cudgel. It promises to teach whtie people how to admit their racism and inveighs against any and all defense mechanisms—“silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude, and other forms of pushback”— by which white people might disclaim their racist tendencies. Coleman Hughes pushes back, writing without white guilt as a black man.
The “great evasion” is before us, writes Samuel Moyn. With the victory of Joe Biden and the defeat of Donald Trump, there is a deep desire to return to normalcy. Moyn writes that part of the great evasion is a continued worry that the threat posed by Donald Trump as to democracy. On the contrary, he argues, Trump was a weak President and “American democracy was never under systemic threat from so fickle and hamstrung a wannabe authoritarian.”
Some things, Julie Beck argues, are more important than truth. Hannah Arendt says something similar, arguing that thinking is concerned not with truth, but with meaning. It is meaning, not truth, that Arendt holds to be the basic human need. That is why for Arendt, the most basic of human rights is the right to have rights, the right to speak and act in a political world so that one is meaningful.
Parler, the right-wing alternative to Twitter, has somewhere around 10 million users. This is a far cry from the 330 active Twitter accounts or the 2.7 billion Facebook accounts. And yet Parler has become a “swamp-like ecosystem” in which the likes of Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Laura Loomer, and leading QAnon acolytes have free reign. In this fact-free reality, the CIA supercomputers changed votes from Trump to Biden, Republicans were given Sharpie pens to vote with...
Recently the Hannah Arendt Center Race and Revolution lecture series featured a conversation between my former student Juliana Huxtable and Kimberly Foster. Now Philip Maughan pens a profile of Huxtable that offers one way to think about critical thinking: To resist simplicity and to make the world beautifully chaotic.
I’m often asked what I most like about Hannah Arendt. It is one of those annoying questions, such as: what is your favorite book? And yet, the answer I usually give to the first question is that reading Arendt is a constant surprise. There is no other writer and thinker who constantly provokes me and surprises me in ways that make me question my own prejudices and my own settled convictions. Reading Arendt is, for me, a spur to being a better thinker.
As the Presidency of Donald Trump comes to an end (and it will end on January 20th), it is time to think about what has happened. The worries about President Trump being an authoritarian, fascist, or totalitarian leader have proven overblown. The conspiracy theories about collusion with Russia were always just that, conspiracies. With the exception of his abuse of power trying to cajole and bribe the Ukranian President into investigating his political...
As I write this on Thursday morning, the United States still does not know who will be its next president. A few thoughts: First, after four years of Donald Trump, over 60 million Americans still believe it is acceptable to be governed by a con man and fraud, a broken human being, someone who fundamentally believes that he has the power to define, redefine, and build the reality that suits his own political and personal interests.
In the United States, there is an industry of people turning to Hannah Arendt to raise the spectre of totalitarianism. Sam Moyn has rightly questioned this approach. But there are places where it is worth worrying about the rise of totalitarianism. China—where reeducation camps for Uighur are leading to detention and torture—is also engaging in an unprecedented use of technology and state-sponsored repression to censor its population.