The crisis of truth is upon us and for many this is a phenomenon associated with Donald Trump. But Hannah Arendt diagnosed the crisis of truth in modern politics over 60 years ago. And in her essay “Truth and Politics” Arendt argues that one foundation for that crisis is the loss of a non-political standpoint from which one can speak about the world and politics.
Philanthropy increasingly has a bad name in some circles these days. And there are real worries about the retreat of government being replaced by wealthy donors who then have an outsized impact on our public world. But it is also important to recall Aristotle’s insight that a political community depends upon virtues, including what he calls the virtue of liberality. It is meaningful, Aristotle writes, when wealthy citizens build shrines to the graces in public places...
Rolf Hochhuth died last week. Hochhuth was the author of The Deputy, A Christian Tragedy that premiered on the Freie Volksbühne stage in West Berlin in February 1963, making the author world-famous. The play is a documentary inquiry into the decision by Pope Pius XII to remain silent regarding the Holocaust, about which he knew.
As the President vacillates between claiming absolute powers and empowering the states, there is a renewed interest in the American principle of federalism. The appeal to the principle of federalism and the multiplication of powers throughout the United States Constitutional system is precisely the kind of thinking Hannah Arendt celebrated as the true innovation of the United States Constitution.
Kristian Blickle of the Federal Reserve Board of New York has published a working paper, “Pandemics Change Cities: Municipal Spending and Voter Extremism in Germany, 1918-1933.” As described by Quint Forgey, Blickle’s paper “concludes that deaths caused by the 1918 influenza pandemic “profoundly shaped German society” in subsequent years and contributed to the strengthening of the Nazi Party.”
A bit over a year ago I attended a symposium on “Black Intellectuals & The Condition of the Culture” at Skidmore College, featuring Margo Jefferson, Darryl Pinckney, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Orlando Patterson and John McWhorter. The conversations were free and provocative and at times brilliant. Now the transcripts of the symposium have been published by SALMAGUNDI.
Over and again we hear the refrain: “Listen to the experts.” Amidst a crisis that has witnessed a disastrous response from President Trump and the federal government and from many states and cities—Mayor Bill DeBlasio has been particularly inept causing untold misery for New Yorkers like myself—there is a desire to have the experts guide us.
In “I Am (Not) a Monster,” a new movie by Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun, Dr. Hayoun travels around the world dressed as Hannah Arendt to ask thinkers and activists about the origins of knowledge. Ben Hayoun, a Senior Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center and the founder of the University of the Underground, begins with Arendt’s idea that “To act is to begin something new.”
Writing for the New York Review of Book, Fintan O’Toole dissects Trump’s failed leadership. Faced with a real emergency, Trump has been unable to set aside his self-promoting narcissism to guide the American people. O’Toole highlights the extent to which Trump’s delimited worldview as a business leader has influenced his posturing in managing the pandemic, examining at elisions in his language and refusal to face reality.
Seth Cotler points us to a book review written in 1983 by Samuel T. Francis that makes clear how much of the politics of populism and racism we are experiencing today was already visible to those with eyes to see it. The review of a book by Kevin Philips argues that the frustrations with America’s obsolete constitutional and political system will bring about a racially charged right-wing revolution in the United States.