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.
In the New York Review of Books, Sarah Churchwell discusses American fascism through a historical lens while reflecting on recent events. Churchwell highlights the fact that fascism in 2020 will not look like fascism in Europe in 1933, but also acknowledges the underlying causes of fascist movements, like racism.
Ned O’Gorman argues that what makes Hannah Arendt so meaningful in our divided, highly partisan, and post-truth age is her embrace of politics that avoids claims to truth. While some may recoil from the intensity of politics and seek to restrain political excess, Arendt insists that the only way to protect ourselves from democratic tyranny is by expanding rather than constricting democratic powers.
Right wing governments in Hungary, India, Turkey, Brazil, and to some degree even in the United States have increasingly embraced Viktor Orbán’s claim of “illiberal democracy.” These governments remain democratic even as they reject liberal safeguards for personal freedom such as freedom of speech and association, independent courts, a non-partisan professional civil service, respect for constitutional limitations on political power.
Chris Lebron writes that while three medical associations now label racism to be a public health crisis, he has long spoken of “Racial Diminishment syndrome,” a disease that, if often deadly, “more commonly results in discomfort, inconvenience and the sort of pains that eventually go away but the memories of which do not.
Jonathan Chait tells the story of David Shor, a social democrat and a data analyst who worked for President Obama. But Shor, who worked for the data analysis firm Civis Analytics, was fired for tweeting a “short summary of a paper by Princeton professor Omar Wasow. The research compiled by Wasow analyzed public opinion in the 1960s, and found violent and nonviolent protest tactics had contradictory effects.
On September 16, 1964, Hannah Arendt sat for an interview on German TV with Günther Gaus. Arendt and Gaus are both chain smoking through the interview in which they talk about the Holocaust, philosophy, feminism, Jewishness, exile, and of course her book on Adolf Eichmann.
Whether George Floyd died from asphyxiation or some combination of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” as the official Hennepin County autopsy has it, anyone can see that former police officer Derek Chauvin sat firmly on Mr. Floyd’s neck, left hand casually in his pocket as if bored, for over 8 minutes while three other officers calmly looked on.