The Portable Hannah Arendt (Penguin Classics)

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9780142437568: The Portable Hannah Arendt (Penguin Classics)

A collection of writings by a groundbreaking political thinker, including excerpts from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Although Hannah Arendt is considered one of the major contributors to social and political thought in the twentieth century, this is the first general anthology of her writings. This volume includes selections from her major works, including  The Origins of TotalitarianismBetween Past and FutureMen in Dark TimesThe Jew as Pariahand The Human Condition, as well as many shorter writings and letters. Sections include extracts from her work on fascism, Marxism, and totalitarianism; her treatment of work and labor; her writings on politics and ethics; and a section on truth and the role of the intellectual.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Although Hannah Arendt is considered one of the major contributors to social and political thought in the twentieth century, this is the first general anthology of her writings. This volume includes selections from her major works, including The Origins of Totalitarianism, Between Past and Future, Men in Dark Times, The Jew as Pariah, and The Human Condition, as well as many shorter writings and letters. Sections include extracts from her work on fascism, Marxism, and totalitarianism; her treatment of work and labor; her writings on politics and ethics; and a section on truth and the role of the intellectual.

Review:

Peter Baehr's anthology is a gem made up of 33 selections supplemented by his highly competent introduction, a chronology covering the major events in Hannah Arendt's life, and a basic bibliography. Arendt's erudition and incisive brilliance are well represented throughout. Passages include lengthy excerpts from her major books ( The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, On Revolution, and Eichmann in Jerusalem), shorter excerpts from Rahel Varnhagen and The Life of the Mind, eight essays (four from Between Past and Future, one from Men in Dark Times, and two not previously available in book form), a University of Chicago lecture, her famous television interview with Guenter Gaus, four letters (two to Karl Jaspers, others to Mary McCarthy and Gershom Scholem), and a brief journal entry (on Heidegger "the fox"). Ever sensitive to the limitations of anthologies, particularly for the work of thinkers like Arendt, Baehr has managed to effectively convey the feel of Arendt's conscientious yet combative thinking through his selections and arrangements.

Arendt burst upon the world literary stage in 1951 with The Origins of Totalitarianism and a Saturday Review cover photo. She understood totalitarianism as an unprecedented phenomenon, identifying several elements that fused into it and analyzing totalitarian movements and rule. The success of Origins led to prestigious lectureships and 25 years of fiercely independent writing and teaching. She proved knowledgeable about philosophy as well as history and politics, fluent not only in English and German (her beloved "mother tongue") but also in French, Greek, and Latin. This precocious German Jewess had devoted her college years to studying philosophy, theology, and Greek (with Heidegger, Jaspers, Husserl, and Bultmann!), but the Nazi rise to power compelled Arendt to focus on politics, especially the Jewish question. From the '50s until her death in 1975, Arendt developed and publicly defended controversial views, including her report on the Eichmann trial and her coinage "the banality of evil"; her opposition to integrationist busing and to affirmative action hiring in universities; and her version of (classical) republicanism, rooted in her radical understandings of human action and the dignity of politics. All these views and more find expression in this collection. Of late, Arendt's fame has been rekindled by revelations of her love affair with Heidegger. Now, as we approach her birth centenary (2006), this Portable provides newcomers and faithful admirers alike a marvelous package of Arendt's writings. --Richard Kenney

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