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Hannah Arendt has been celebrated as a thinker of natality, action, and radical new beginnings. Birmingham argues that this celebration misses Arendt’s central concern throughout her work which is is to rethink political immortality in a secularized world that has lost its theological ground. Against such thinkers as Hobbes, Rousseau, and Carl Schmitt, all of whom ground their conception of the political in a theological conception of immortality animated by sovereign glory and violence, Birmingham argues that Arendt rethinks political glory as earthly immortality. Through a sustained reflection on Arendt’s understanding of law, violence, revolutionary power, authority, and political judgment and an engagement with several of Arendt’s readers, including Agamben, Balibar, Butler, and Lyotard, Birmingham claims that Arendt’s notion of earthly immortality allows for a post-theological conception of the political that is no longer rooted in sovereign glory and sacralised violence.
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Peg Birmingham is Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University. She is the author of Hannah Arendt and Human Rights (2006) and co-editor of Aporia of Rights (with Anna Yeatman, 2014) and Dissensus Communis (with Philippe van Haute, 1995). She is the editor of the journal Philosophy Today.
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