In the final chapters of Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt worries that the very strength of the Israeli Court in its trial of Adolf Eichmann—its fairness and its fidelity to law—prevented the court from understanding that Eichmann’s unprecedented acts required a political rather than a legal response. Eichmann himself argued that if he were guilty, it was of “aiding and abetting” in the commission of horrific crimes, that he himself had not...
It is well known that Richard Wright found in Paris the freedom he never found as a black man in America. Maybe less well known is that that James Baldwin, in his essay, “Alas, Poor Richard,” accused Wright, as Adam Shatz observes, “of celebrating Paris as a “city of refuge” while remaining silent about France’s oppressive treatment of its colonial subjects.”
Liane Carlson writes about thinking for The Revealer, and what happens when we lose faith in thinking as scholars. Echoing Hannah Arendt’s critique of academic thinking, and those who rank among the professional thinkers, Carlson emphasizes the communal nature of thinking as an activity that we engage in, while reflecting on the declining state of academia today.
Magdalena Edwards offers a brilliant account of her experience translating Clarice By Lispector in the LA Review of Books. Navigating the unmarked side streets of publishing, Edwards walks readers through the process of translation while thinking about the gray line between editing and ideas, who gets credit for their work, and who gets thanked for devotion.
The Hannah Arendt Center Conference “The Unmaking of Americans: Are There Still American Ideas Worth Fighting For?” posed a simple yet controversial question: Is America an exceptional country? In other words, Is there an American Idea? And if yes, what is the idea on which America is founded?
With all the craziness going on here in the United States, it is sometimes hard to remember to pay attention to the world. But a number of essays this week remind us that the revolt against elite norms and elite institutions is a worldwide phenomenon. Siddhartha Deb writes about the decision of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party in India to revoke the special status of Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in India.
Power is indeed of the essence of all government, but violence is not. Violence is by nature instrumental; like all means, it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the end it pursues. And what needs justification by something else cannot be the essence of anything.— Hannah Arendt
Joe Biden made news with another racial gaffe when he said “We have this notion that somehow if you’re poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” John McWhorter argues that these gaffes, while problematic, are also indicative of a paradoxical tension around black achievement.