Hannah Arendt Center presents:
Lunchtime Talk with Maribel Morey
"Defining American Democracy Differently: A Reading of Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma (1944) and Hannah Arendt's 'Reflections on Little Rock' (1959)."
Monday, October 22, 2012
Taking a step back from mid-twentieth century receptions of An American Dilemma and “Reflections on Little Rock,” this talk will help clarify why these two European scholars arrived at such distinct views on American race relations. Specifically, I argue that Myrdal’s and Arendt’s different visions of American democracy led them to their opposing perspectives on American race relations. In 1942, Myrdal was particularly intent on illustrating that the American democratic state and its people—unlike Nazi Germany and its citizens—followed modern social scientific knowledge on social group differences and thus promoted subordinate groups’ assimilation and integration into the dominant majority folk. In 1959, Arendt was adamant that American democracy should prove itself distinct from totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and a communist Soviet Union by maintaining a strong separation between the private, public, and social realms and between adults and children. Reading An American Dilemma and “Reflections on Little Rock” through this lens, we begin to appreciate the significance of democratic theory in determining—not only Myrdal’s and Arendt’s, but also our own—definitions of racial equality in the United States.