This was the 15th Documenta, and the most controversial. It was marred by charges of antisemitism which were returned with accusations of racism. I am not an artist and had never been to a Documenta. But I was particularly interested because I would be participating in Documenta 15 as part of the final installation by the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera and her Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR). The Arendt Center sponsored three talks throughout the week.
Moisés Naim writes that a new breed of autocrats “uses populism, capitalizes on polarization, and revels in post-truth politics to undermine democratic norms and amass power, preferably for life.
There are all sorts of books written about How Democracies Die. Hannah Arendt argued that the great threats to democracies are bureaucratization and bigness, both of which led to Praxis-Entzug, a feeling of disempowerment and depoliticization. This certainly seems to be happening in France. Ivanne Trippenbach, Julie Carriat, Laurent Telo, Solenn de Royer and Olivier Faye write in Le Monde that the Presidential election in France has encountered unprecedented apathy. Ivanne Trippenbach, Julie Carriat, Laurent Telo, Solemn de Royer and Olivier Faye write in Le Monde that the Presidential election in France has encountered unprecedented apathy.
Hannah Arendt respected civil servants who brought competence and professionalism to their jobs. At the same time, however, she worried deeply about bureaucracy, which is often associated with civil service. In her early work The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt argues that bureaucracy as it developed in India, Egypt, and Algeria was a new form of government of foreign people that sought to rule and dominate them outside of legal restraints. As a non-legal government based on personal power, bureaucracy was intertwined with racism that justified the brutal colonial rule by European powers.
The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine raises questions about what Hannah Arendt called “the war question.”
The Folio Society has just published the first-ever illustrated edition of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. This two-volume set includes famous propaganda images and documentary photography from the USSR and the Third Reich and also a new introduction by Anne Applebaum.
Peter Maguire reminisces about his time at Bard when his “teachers cared about my education, they did not care about my ego.” Maguire reprints some of the comments he received on the end of term criteria sheets that Bard professors still fill out for every student.
It was Vladimir Lenin who said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” And now it is Vladimir Putin who has punctuated Lenin’s remarks. Our world has changed.
Hannah Arendt wrote about war, genocide, and totalitarianism. Her mantra was to look reality squarely in the face and seek to understand it and to resist it. But first to understand it. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is a human tragedy. It is also a geopolitical earthquake that threatens to transform the world in which we live.
N.S. Lyons considers the Trucker protests in Canada now spreading around the world and argues that the protests force us to consider the divide between what he calls the physicals and the virtuals.