Hannah Arendt has become the thinker of the present moment, cited in hundreds of essays and think pieces seeking to explain our current predicament. There are some good reasons for her newfound relevance. Arendt’s fearless thinking insisted on confronting reality. She understood the uniqueness of totalitarianism, but also its origins in imperialism, bureaucracy, racism, loneliness, and the decline of the nation state.
Two recent essays address the way that the press and social media in particular are polarizing and radicalizing our politics. First, Matt Taibbi argues that the political polarization has its source in the new way that the news is marketed to partisan audiences.
Emma Graham-Harrison writes that new reports show that China is continuing to build re-education concentration camps for Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province. China has built nearly 400 internment camps in Xinjiang region, with construction on dozens continuing over the last two years, even as Chinese authorities said their “re-education” system was winding down, an Australian thinktank has found.
Gershom Scholem called them “plastic hours.” Hannah Arendt called them “Revolutionary situations.” George Packer argues we are likely now living through such a moment when “an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. They require the right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events—usually a crisis.
The “scandal” around President Trump telling Bob Woodward that he lied to the American people about the danger posed by the Corona Virus has come and gone, having little to no impact on the the President’s approval rating. One reason is that such lies are precisely the kinds of lies that are at the root of politics: they are purposeful lies. As Trump explained to Woodward, he lied to prevent a panic.
“The pursuit of happiness” must be the most poetic phrase in the Constitution. Of course, the language throughout is elegant, the “felicity of pen” of Thomas Jefferson. However, his way about the pursuit of happiness grabs me by the heartstrings. No doubt this term lifted from Kant’s, “life, liberty, and property’ drew Arendt’s attention.
On the publication of the anthology “Denkräume”:
Jana Marlene Mader
Hannah Arendt’s spaces of thinking and on ours today
In “The Life of the Mind”, Hannah Arendt argues that thinking is a rebellion against the tyranny of time and a safeguard against the terror of our own finiteness. She notes that cognition removes us from the present while pondering where the thinking ego is located: