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.
James Kirchick writes about Matthias Döpfner, the CEO of the German publisher Axel Springer, who recently ordered that the Israeli flag be flown for a week at corporate headquarters in solidarity with both Israel and European Jews after a spate of anti-semitic attacks in Germany. When some Springer employees complained and accused Döpfner of taking sides in a geopolitical conflict, Dopfner responded sternly...
William Deresiewicz asks after the boom in Masters programs--“From 1991 to 2019, the number of master’s degrees awarded rose by 143 percent. That’s 70 percent faster than bachelor’s degrees and 84 percent faster than doctorates.” These programs are cash cows for universities and are frequently financed by huge amounts of debt by students seeking to invest in their futures.
David Brooks revisits what he got right and wrong about the rise of the creative class. Above all, he admits that he was wrong when he wrote in 2000, “The educated class is in no danger of becoming a self-contained caste. Anybody with the right degree, job, and cultural competencies can join.” That view that the creative elite was benign and open to all was, he writes, “one of the most naive sentences I have ever written.”
Abstract debates about critical race theory or antiracism curricula often lead nowhere. It is imperative that we engage in specific efforts to develop meaningful curricula that address the reality of racial inequality in our history and our present. And that is proving difficult, as is shown by the case of Deemar v. Board of Education of the City of Evanston/Skokie.
Felix Heidenreich writes about how Hannah Arendt has become an iconic and even mythic thinker in Germany today, and one might say also outside of Germany as well. He argues that “The fascination for Arendt is comprehensible and fertile as long as Arendt is taken seriously as a philosopher” or at least as a political thinker.
The United States of America was created not as a democratic state but as a federal constitutional republic with democratically elected representatives. As Alexis de Tocqueville saw, the spirit of American democracy came out of the townships in New England. And Hannah Arendt argues that the greatest innovation and central idea of the United States Constitutions was the dispersion and expansion of federated powers alongside a rejection of central government and sovereignty.
The incredible popularity of Hannah Arendt in recent years is likely traceable to her reflections on themes such as totalitarianism, loneliness, and lying in politics. Her work is thought to be relevant to our modern political and cultural situation. And it is. But Arendt’s importance today goes beyond her substantive insights into our political condition.