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.
Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition is not about human nature. Arendt says little if anything about what it means to be human in the sense of our natural humanity. Her inquiry is premised on the fact that we humans are conditioned beings, that we are born into an already existing world. That world is made through human artifice; it also conditions us humans insofar as we must live and die in a humanly built world.
In Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville argues that the American brand of religion—strong on morality while permissive on rituals and dogma—is deeply important to liberal democracy. While democracy secures and fosters political and civil liberties, religion nurtures a “civic religion” that privileges moral consensus over dogmatism.
There are about 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, a reality that makes the United States notorious for being the world's leader in incarceration. In recent years, however, this phenomenon—mass incarceration, has gained momentum as a matter of discussion in conversations about criminal justice.
Louis Menand writes a long and important account of the “New Left” as it emerged in the cultural politics of the 1960s. Pace Menand, the core tenets of the “New Left” are a fight against “the system” and an understanding of politics as an existential struggle in self-actualization.
Nadav Eyal writes that our time will be remembered for what it lacks and for what it destroys. It is a period of negation and nihilism consumed by a rage against the machine and a distrust of the system. Writing in the 1960s, Hannah Arendt saw that the glorification of violence witnessed in both theory and practice was in large part driven by a global sense of powerlesseness...
There are simply too many accepted truths that are not true. Two recent essays make the case that the Press needs to do better at avoiding making false claims, claims that then come to be accepted as verities. Holman Jenkins Jr. writes that Musicologist Ted Gioia “may be on to something when he says that after 9/11, the long reign of cool had ended, the reign of hot had begun.”
Hannah Arendt was a decidedly anti-metaphysical and anti-universalist thinker. For Arendt, “particular questions must receive particular answers.” There are, she writes, “no general standards to determine our judgments unfailingly, no general rules.” Amidst what Arendt calls the “break in the tradition,” it is a fact that “traditional verities seem no longer to apply” and the “loss of general standards and rules--cannot be undone.” There is no going backwards to some past golden era.