The Portable Hannah Arendt (Viking Portable Library)

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The Portable Hannah Arendt (Viking Portable Library)


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The Portable

HANNAH ARENDT Edited with an Introduction by PETER BAEI-lR






HANNAH ARENDT HANNAH ARENDT was born in Hannover, Germany, in 1906. She studied at the Universities of Marburg and Freiburg and received her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, where she studied under Karl Jaspers. In 1933 she fled from Germany and went to France, where she worked for the immigration of Jewish refugee children into Palestine. In 1941 she came to the United States and became an American citizen ten years later. She was a research director of the Conference on Jewish Relations, chief editor of Schocken Books, executive director of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction in New York City, a visiting professor at several universities, including California, Princeton, Columbia, and Chicago, and university professor on the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1952 and won the annual Arts and Letters Grant of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1954. Hannah Arendt's books include The Origins of Totalitarianism, Crisis in the Republic, Men in Dark Times, Between Past and Future: Eight Exerdses in Political Thought, and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. She also edited two volumes of Karl Jaspers's The Great Philosophers. Hannah Arendt died in December 1975.

PETER BAEHR teaches social and political theory at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. Among his books are Caesar and the Fading of the Roman World: A Study in Republicanism and Caesarism, and Founders, Classics and Canons. EACH VOLUME in The Viking Portable Library either presents a representative selection from the works of a single outstanding writer or offers a comprehensive anthology on a special subject. Averaging 700 pages in length and designed for compactness and readability, these books fill a need not met by other compilations. All are edited by distinguished authorities who have written introductory essays and included much other helpful material.


Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, · Auckland 10, New Zealand Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England First published in Penguin Books 2000 1 3







4 2

Copyright IC Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000 All rights reserved Page 576 constitutes an extension of this copyright page. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBUCATION DATA

Arendt, Hannah. The portable Hannah Arendt/edited with an introduction by Peter Baehr. p. em. - (the Viking portable library) ISBN 0 14 02.6974 6 1. Political science. 2. Political ethics. 3. Totalitarianism. 4. Revolutions. 5. Social ethics. I. Baehr, P. R. (Peter R.) II. Tide. Ill. Series. JC251.A739 2000 320.5'092--dc21 99-38487 Printed in the United States of America Set in Bembo Designed by Sabrina Bowers Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.


Editor's Introduction Principal Dates Bibliographical Notes Acknowledgmems



lix lxiii

I. OVERVIEW: WHAT REMAINS? "What Remains? The Language Remains": A Conversation with Gunter G~us


II. STATELESS PERSONS That "Infinitely Complex Red-tape Existence": From a Letter to Karl Jaspers The Perplexities of the Rights of Man The Jewish Army-the Beginning of a Jewish Politics? Jewcss and Shlemihl (1771-1795) Writing Rahel Vamhagen. From a Letter to Karl Jaspers

25 31 46 49 68

III. TOTALITARIANISM The Jews and Society Expansion Total Domination Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility A Reply to Eric V oegelin

75 104 119 146 157



IV. THE VITA ACTIVA Labor, Work, Action The Public and the Private Realm Reflections on Little Rock The Social Question The Concept of History: An~ient and Modern

167 182 231 247 278

V. BANALITY AND CONSCIENCE: THE EICHMANN TRIAL AND ITS IMPLICATIONS From Eichmann in jerusalem •An Expert on the Jewish Question •The Final Solution: Killing •The Wannsee Conference, or Pontius Pilate •Execution •Epilogue • Postscript "Holes of Oblivion": The Eichmann Trial and Totalitarianism. From a Letter to Mary McCarthy A "Daughter of Our People": A Response to Gershom Scholem From The Ufo of the Mind (volume 1) •The Answer of Socrates •The Two-in-One

313 313

329 344 362 365 375 389 391 397 397 408

VI. REVOLUTION AND PRESERVATION Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) What Is Freedom? What Is Authority? The Revolutionary Tradition and Its Lost Treasure

419 438 462


VII. OF TRUTH AND TRAPS Heidegger the Fox Truth and Politics

543 545




HANNAH ARENDT was a deeply paradoxical figure, and therein lies the challenge she poses to the received wisdom of modem times. She was among the greatest women political thinkers of the twentieth century, ·yet one strikingly at odds with academic feminism. She was an intensely private person whose unpopular public stands on such issues as the trial of the captured Nazi Adolf Eichmann, or on forced school integration in America, drew acrimony and controversy. A Jew who in the 1930s and forties campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Zionism (she was arrested by the Nazis in 1933 for Zionist activities), Arendt opposed the formation of a unitary Israeli state. And how, given commonplace modes of thought, are we to cope with a theorist who documented the twentieth century's fundamental rupture with tradition, while championing the notions of truth, facts, and common sense? Or with an author of one of the masterpieces of political "science"-The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)-who expressed the strongest reservations about social science in general? Or, indeed, with an intellectual who repeatedly lamented the self-deception and opportunism to which intellectuals are perennially susceptible? Such fearless originality indicates that Hannah Arendt was "one of those writers who are well worth stealing. " 1 But it is a relatively simple thing to appropriate a person's ideas, quite another to cultivate the "willed independence of judgment" and "conscious distance from all fanaticisms" 2 that. animated them. Born in Hannover on October 14, 1906,3 Hannah Arendt was the only child of Paul and Martha (nee Cohn) Arendt. Hannah Arendt's Jewish parents were well educated, leftist in their political inclinations, and tending toward religious skepticism, though this did not deter them from ensuring their daughter attend the synagogue and receive religious instruction in Judaism. Neither of Arendt's parents were Zionist; the ''Jewvii



ish question" was not a major issue for them, nor was it to be for their daughter until the Nazi movement made it one. At the same time, no Jew, however bourgeois or "assimilated," could avoid recognizing the peculiar status that Jewishness conferred on them in German society, whether they lived in Hannover, or in Konigsberg, to which the Arendts moved in 1909. Four years later, Paul Arendt died of paresis. Obliged to raise the seven-year-old Hannah without her husband, Martha Arendt developed a practice that left a lasting impression on her daughter: instead of meekly tolerating the occasional anti-Semitic taunts by schoolmates, the young girl was enjoined to defend herself against them. Equally, Martha Arendt robusdy took action against those of her daughter's teachers who uttered derogatory comments about Jews. From early on, Hannah Arendt learned that when attacked as a Jew, one had to defend oneself as a Jew. But in the days before, during, and immediately after the First World War, this kind of consideration lay in the background of her life. More prominent for her than even the war itself, which left Konigsberg largely unscathed, or the early turbulence of the Weimar Republic, were the private matters with which to contend: the impact of her father's insanity and death, her illnesses and growing pains, the remarriage of her mother in 1920. These were also the days when the foundations of Hannah Arendt's education were being laid, and those of the brilliant scholarly "career" that followed. Headstrong and independent, she displayed a precocious aptitude for the life of the mind. And while she might risk confrontation with a teacher who offended her with an inconsiderate remark--1he was briefly expelled for leading a boycott of the teacher's classes-from German Bildung (cultivation) there was to be no rebellion. At fifteen she was already meeting with friends to "read and translate Greek texts, a Gymnasium version of the Graecae or Greek Circles commonly established in the universities of the period. " 4 Hannah Arendt's first experience of university itself took place in Berlin, where she attended the lectures of the Christian existentialist theologian Romano Guardini. But it was as a pupil ofMartin Heidegger in Mar burg, and subsequendy in Heidelberg as a student of the other great German Existenz philosopher of the day, Karl Jaspers, that she received her formative philosophical education. When Hannah Arendt first met Heidegger in 1924 she was eighteen years old. A passionate attachment to him soon followed that endured for the rest of her life, despite periods of disappointment, hostility, and exasperation. The devotion to a man who appeared the very incarnation of philosophical radicalism survived a fouryear ltlve affair that began in 1925, and found itself sufficiendy sturdy, decades later, to forgive his embrace of National Socialism, to grapple



with his philosophical Kehre ("turnabout") announced in 1949, which appeared to her unworldly in the extreme, and to play a part in rehabilitating him to a skeptical public. Punctuating these attempts at understanding and reconciliation lay her anger at his naivete, his disloyalty to friends, his "romanticism" (generally a term of obloquy in Arendt's lexicon), his "complete lack of responsibility" and "cowardice," 5 and his studiedly cool response to her own philosophical masterwork The Human Condition (1958). 6 Conversely, Hannah Arendt found in Karl Jaspers, under whose supervision she wrote her doctoral dissertation, human qualities of integrity sadly absent in the author of Being and Time. The topic of Arendt's dissertation was the Concept of Love in St. Augustine (1929), a work that brought together personal experience and a university training in philosophy, Greek, and theology. Arendt's study of Augustine's notion of love as "craving" and its relationship to "neighborly love" and to the love of God is today the subject of vigorous reappraisal. Attention is being drawn to its ambivalent assessment of Christian doctrine, its adaptation of temporal and spatial categories derived from Heidegger and Jaspers/ and its treatment of ideas that, duly expanded and reshaped, would come to occupy an important position in her subsequent thought: beginning (natality), mortality, memory, and the world. 8 During the period of its composition, Jaspers offered Hannah Arendt his learning and his advice, laying the groundwork of a friendship that would blossom after·the Second World War when they reestablished contact For although Jaspers (whose wife, Gertrud, was a Jew) had not spoken out against the Nazi regime, he had at least refused to collude with it, losing his job as a result. Choosing the path of "inner emigration," Jaspers sat out the war, kept his cyanide pills in readiness, and waited for the knock at the door that never came. 9


During her youth and for much ofher time at university, Hannah Arendt showed little interest in practical politics. Such insouciance ended abrupdy when, with her doctoral work behind her, and now married to her first husband, the writer Gunther Stern, she moved to Berlin in 1929. It was in Berlin that Arendt came face-to-face with a growing Nazi movement programmatically and politically hostile to Jewry, and before which the custodians of the Republic appeared weak .and vacillating. Nor, for the Jews, were the Nazis' main foes a source of great reassurance: Marxist organizations tended to downplay the propaganda and politics of anti-



Semitism (which many of its members shared) in order to ram home the message that fascism was the last stage of capitalism. German Jews were largely isolated. It was in this conjuncture that Hannah Arendt began to reconsider the possibilities of Zionism, particularly as espoused by its chief German advo~ate and organizer, Kurt Blumenfeld. Arendt was attracted to Blumenfeld's version of Zionism because of its attempts, as she saw it, to develop a politically realistic assessment of the Jewish predicament. Because European Jews, however apparently integrated, were considered to be an alien people by their Gentile neighbors, it was imperative for them to draw the political consequences of this fact and work to build a Jewish homeland. Anti-Semitism was not inevitable, nor should it be thought of as a necessary, perverse ingredient in fashioning or maintaining Jewish solidarity. It was something more simple and more complex: an historical reality demanding a political response. This would be a difficult endeavor not least because Jews were themselves divided along axes of national culture and class, and between those who remained orthodox in their Judaism and those who had lost key elements of their faith. Entrenched Jewish attitudes and reflexes would also have to be confronted and erased if the worst features of adaptation in the Diaspora were not be recapitulated in Palestine: philantJtropic condescension of the wealthy Jews toward poorer Jews; "parvenu" strategies of advancement; the romance ofbeing "exceptions." These were themes Arendt sought to dramatize in the first major work to follow her doctoral dissertation, Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a ]ewess, a book begun in Germany in 1929, but first published in 1958. 10 Hannah Arendt called Rahel Varnh'Wen a "life-story" (Lebensgeschichte) but, given the book's threadbare narrative, it is best understood as something quite different: a meditation on human marginality. It focuses on a single individual, the eponymous Rahel (nee Levin, 1771-1833) and her network of intimates, during an age when talented, middle-class "exceptional" Jews mixed with Gentile actors and nobility on terms of amiable familiarity. The locus of this sociability was the salon, a theater of conversation within whose protective walls women of cultivation, like Rahel, achieved a level of prominence impossible in the world outside it. What enabled the Jewish salon, particularly in Berlin, to provide a unique arena in which normal social conventions were suspended, was the anomalous condition of the strata it brought together. Nobility, actors, and Jews alike, Arendt explained, were bound by a kind of negative solidarity, for each of them stood outside "bourgeois society." It is true that the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries offered the Jews additional islands of acceptance. German Romanticism, then at its high tide, found in



the Jews' "mysterious" and exotic antiquity ample material for its musing; Enlightenment thinkers saw in the Jews an opportunity to practice the art of toleration and expand the compass of humanity itself. But these were primarily aesthetic and moral responses to the plight of the Jews, not political ones. So long as Jews were denied political equality, Arendt argued, they remained exposed and vulnerable to the fate that awaits all who stand on the periphery of citizenship: ill treatment, and the personal compromises and guilt that attend integration on unequal terms. The ease with which the articles of the German Confederation in 1815 snatched back the rights granted to Jews under the Napoleonic occupation showed how precarious was the latter's position in the absence of full citizenship. But it was before the articles were promulgated, and before Napoleon's entry into Berlin in October 1806, that Rabel's attic room on Jagerstrasse witnessed its halcyon days. Between 1790 and 1806 it played host to some of the most eminent writers and enthusiasts of the age, the Humboldt brothers, Friedrich Schlegel, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia among them Here, background and convention counted for less than learning and wit, provided their bearers knew how best to display them. Yet shortly after Napoleon occupied Berlin, the circle collapsed, its spirit of solidarity broken by a nationalist reaction that linked the Jews to the Enlightenment and the Enlightenment to the French enemy. Where salons remained, they became highly exclusive in orientation, composed of chauvinist nobles and their hangers-on, whose bylaws prohibited the "admittance of women, Frenchmen, philistines and Jews. " 11 Rabel's own salon had to wait fifteen years to be resuscitated; Hegel, Ranke, and her young friend Heinrich Heine were among its later visitors. By that time, however, she had begun a metamorphosis that transformed her from a Jew ashamed of her status, to one who unapologetically accepted it. Arendt's study offers the reader a vivid portrait of Rabel's milieu, a rough chronology of her changing fortunes, and a sketch of her various attempts at assimilation: German patriotism (1808), baptism, and marriage to Karl August Varnhagen (1814) were foremost among them. But the book is also an examination of an internal struggle in which a woman racked with doubts gradually casts them aside. Lacking acceptance from others and acceptance from herself, Rabel is depicted as a woman who came to recognize that in a hostile society she must make a choice between two paths ofjewishness: the path of the parvenue or social climber, who through ingratiation or display as a rarefied species wins qualified acceptance by virtue of being an exception of her "race"; or, alternatively, a "pariah" who is willing to face squarely the reality of being an outsiderP



As Rabel experienced disappointment in love, strains in her own family, and financial insecurity; as Germany drifted into reaction and recrudescent anti-Semitism made a mockery of the "rights of man"; and as she began to realize that her own personal life w~s bound up with implacable political conditions, she did choose. Recognizing that the ultimate price of assimilation is self-hatred, as one assimilates anti-Semitism in the process, she acknowledged her pariah status. Such acknowledgment enabled her to realize that "Freedom and equality were not going to be conjured into existence by individuals' capturing them by fraud as privileges for themselves."13 Most commentators agree that Rahel Vamhagen is a curious work. Its claim "to narrate the story of Rabel's life as she herself might have told it" has been greeted as far-fetched and hermeneutically na"ive; its willingness to pass scathing judgments on its chief protagonist has been said at times to show a lack of understanding of her plight. The author's own experiences sometimes appear to overwhelm, rather than illuminate, the book's subject. Ostensibly committed to eschewing the psychologizing mode, Arendt shows little hesitancy in deciphering Rabel's dream life to a degree that would make the hardened psychoanalyst gasp. Yet the book also contains Hannah Arendt's most astringent sketch of the inner consequences of marginality. Marginality makes a person vulnerable to suffering and alienation; as such, he or she wins the sympathy of the compassionate observer. But Arendt's objective is emphatically not to "validate" the life experiences of Rabel's marginal status, if that means according them a dignity simply in virtue of the compassion they evoke. Rabel's situation may be pitiable, but to pity her would be to add insult to injury. Instead, the book helps us understand that Rabel's follies are an explicable response to her dual position: as a woman, gifted and intelligent, but lacking wealth and beauty and thus the "weapons with which to begin the great struggle for recognition in society"; and as a Jew who is neither part of the ghetto nor an assimilated member of conventional bourgeois or aristocratic Berlin society. Part of a liminal generation where personal advancement continued to take precedence over the political struggle for equal rights, Rabel is driven inward. The results, trenchantly spelled out in chapter one of the "biography" (pp. 49--{;7 below), are activities and qualities that Arendt neither respected nor sought to champion: flights offancy,loss of reality, introspection, self-exposure and lack of discretion, disregard for facts, capriciousness, the need to be constantly confirmed by others, and "worldlessness." Having no public responsibilities to the public world, the marginal figure is all the freer to wallow in escapism and the cult of the victim-free, in other words, to become irresponsible and vacuous. Only



when Jews stopped trying to escape from their Jewishness; only when they fought for political equality rather than for the opportunity of being exceptional; only when the particularity of citizenship was valued as much as the status of humanity itself, would they stand a chance ofbeing free. What freedom and responsibility demanded ip. Berlin in the early 1930s, when Rahel Vamhagen was being written, had already become evident to Hannah Arendt. With no illusions that anti-Semitism had entered a new phase in Germany, though still with no inkling of how far it would go, she moved decisively toward political engagement. Nineteen thirtythree-the centenary of Rabel's death, and the year Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany-proved to be the critical moment. After the Reichstag fire on February 27 (a provocation blamed on the Communists, but engineered by the Nazis so as to justifY emergency measures), Arendt became increasingly involved in resistance activities. Her apartment in Berlin was used as conduit for leftists and others fleeing arrest. Prompted by Kurt Blumenfeld, Arendt also agreed to work for the German Zionist Organization on one of whose assignments-collecting anti-Semitic material in the Prussian State Library-she was apprehended and taken into custody. Luckily, Hannah Arendt's interrogator had little enthusiasm for his job. Sympathetic to the young woman, and readily bamboozled by. her denials and circumlocutions, he saw to it that she was released eight days after her arrest. Shortly after her release, Arendt left Germany with her mother, heading first for Prague, and then Geneva, where she worked briefly for the Labor Department of the League of Nations. From there, while her mother returned to Germany, she went on to Paris. Reunited with Giinther Stern, who had fled to the French capital immediately after the Reichstag fire, Arendt continued her Zionist activities. She found various kinds of work, notably as secretary general of Youth Aliyah, an association founded to prepare young Jewish immigrants to Palestine for the rigors of their new life; in 1935, Arendt personally accompanied one such group to its members' adoptive homeland. When, however, Youth Aliyah was constrained to move its headquarters to London, Arendt stayed on in Paris, acquiring a job with the Jewish Agency. And it was in Paris, with her marriage to Giinther Stern over in all but name, that she met Heinrich Blucher--the working class, Gentile, ex-Spartacist street fighter and philosophical autodidact, who would become her second husband and companion till his death in 1970. Many challenges lay immediately before the couple: internment as enemy aliens in 1940; immigration to the United States in 1941 and facing the necessity of earning a living from scratch; mastering English;



sharing their lives with Arendt's mother, who, separated from her second husband, had followed her daughter first to Paris, then to America, and whose relationship with Blucher was strained by disapproval and dislike; 14 coping with the news of friends who had died and with the horrors that were being revealed about the concentration camps. These were the years when Hannah Arendt learned firsthand what it meant to be a "stateless person," bereft of occupation, home, and language; to be one of those "refugees," who, as she observed in one of her most acerbic wartime essays, must constantly parade the kind of optimism that compels its greatest enthusiasts to "go home and turn on the gas or make use of a skyscraper in quite an unexpected way." 15 Less unexpected from Arendt's standpoint was how empty the "rights of man" had proved to be for those who had become stateless. The harsh fact, Arendt argued in a 1949 essay that she reworked for The Origins of Totalitarianism (pp. 31-45 below), was that such rights, proclaimed since the Enlightenment, depended not on "the abstract nakedness of being nothing but human," but on political communities strong enough to enforce them. In the absence of a polity, the "inalienable" rights of man had been exposed to have no greater weight than puffs of air. Moreover, many so-called human rights-to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to equality before the law, to private property-had been misnamed, since their loss did not necessarily affect the humanity of those who had previously enjoyed them. As Arendt remarked, the "soldier during the war is deprived of his right to life, the criminal of his right to freedom, all citizens during an emergency of their right to the pursuit of happinessyet nobody would ever claim that in any of these instances a loss .of human rights has been suffered." But deprive someone of a political community, of his or her "distinct place in the world," and of government protection, and you rob the individual of something fimdamental enough to be called accurately a human right: the right to have the right ·to life, liberty, and so on. It was no coincidence that the expulsion of millions from humanity in the concentration c~ps had been preceded by a loss of their worldly location. Bereft of citizenship, an artifact of civilization, not nature, the Jews' "humanity" had been no restraint on those for whom Jews were something less than human in the first place. 16 Though redolent of some themes broached in Rahel Varnhagen and of some earlier journalism, Arendt's writings between 1941 and 1951 manifest a major reorientation in her work toward political theory and commentary. In particular, the position of the Jews, and the emergence of totalitarian regimes, dominate her literary output. During the war, Arendt became a columnist of Aujbau ("Reconstruction"), the German-language



weekly, published in New York and aimed at the emigre community. Her short articles embraced a number of themes, some of which she considerably expanded upon in English-language publicationsY Of special importance to her as the war unfolded was the urgency of forming a Jewish army to play a part in the destruction of the Nazi regime (her interesting Aujbau article advancing this thesis is reprinted on pp. 46-48 below). To fight the Axis forces would be valuable in its own right: it would give Jewish people a sense. of being a "nation" in arms, a participant in, rather than a spectator of, their own destiny, and it would encourage a solidarity that transcended tribalism and philanthropy alike. Just as valuable, the presence of a Jewish military contingent would bolster demands for Jews to have a place at the postwar conference table, able to contribute to the new Europe. 18 But what also becomes evident in these and related articles, particularly those following the Allied victory, was Arendt's growing disenchantment with the dominant streams of Zionist opinion. Since the days of her early friendship with Blumenfeld, Arendt's commitment to Zionism had been qualified and heterodox; now it became strained to the point of direct confrontation. What alienated her was not only the growing "ideological" tenor of Zionism, with its intolerance for dissenting views, its failure .to recognize the distinctive character of Diaspora Jews, its ghetto mentality and "worldlessness," its disparagement of the Yishuv (the preIsrael "homeland" in Palestine) as hopelessly outdated, and later, its apologetics for acts of terrorism perpetrated by the Irgun and the Stem Gang (Zionist paramilitary organizations) against the Arab population of Palestine. She also disagreed with the mainstream view that Israel should be a unitary state. Arendt's preference was for a federal polity in which Jews and Arabs would live as equals, possibly under the loose aegis of the British Commonwealth. 19 Without a federal solution, the new polity, having escaped British mandate vassalage, would perforce become a client of another power, dependent on it for aid and military protection. Isolated from the rest of its neighbors and virtually under a state of siege, the "sovereignty" of the Jewish polity would prove to be utterly chimerical.20 Threatened, too, would be the great institutions of the Yishuv, among them the kibbutzim and the Hebrew University, beacons of Jewish traditions that celebrated "the universality and predominance of learning" and "the passion for justice." 21 Even after the partition of Palestine in November 1947 had all but destroyed any lingering hopes for a federal solution, Arendt enumerated the criteria for what she considered to be a sane Jewish policy in Palestine: a Jewish homeland, not the "pseudo-sovereignty of a Jewish state"; Jewish-Arab cooperation; "elimination of all terrorist



groups (and not agreements with them) and swift punishment of all terrorist deeds (and not merely protest against them)"; limited and phased immigration to Palestine; "local self-government and mixed Jewish-Arab municipal and rural councils.... It is still not too late." 22 Perhaps not, but soon it was.


Hannah Arendt became an American citizen in 1951, the same year in which The Origins of Totalitarianism was first published. The book quickly established her as a thinker of truly international stature. While her essays on Zionism had dealt with the prospects facing European Jewry in the years ahead, Origins sought to examine the catastrophe that had almost entirely destroyed it as a people. It was, to that time, her most sustained "essay in understanding": an attempt, in the words of the preface, to examine and bear "consciously the burden which our century has placed on usneither denying its existence nor submitting meekly to its weight." The book's title--a suggestion of the publisher to which she reluctantly agreed-was always a source of discomfort for Arendt because it did not convey, in a concise form, what she wanted it to express. 23 For while the term "origins" was serviceable in a broad sense, it was also open to misunderstanding on at least three counts. To begin with, Arendt did not attempt to trace totalitarianism back to some primal beginning or seek to delineate the "causes" of totalitarianism, a point she sought to clarify in her exchange with Eric Voegelin (pp. 157-164 below). She proceeded as a political theorist, assembling and distilling the key factors whose contingent outcome was totalitarianism. Historical materials on the Jews and on mass movements were, of course, vital sources for her analysis, but she focused on the various political and social "elements" dlat had transmuted into the totalitarian phenomenon; these she identified as imperialism, racism, anti-Semitism (the term itself was coined in 1879), the disintegration of the nation-state, and the alliance between capital and the "mob. " 24 Each reinforced the other and prepared the groundwork for the terror to come. Anti-Semitism was both an "element" of totalitarianism, and, in Germany, the "amalgamator" of the other elements (imperialism, racism, etc.), "crystallizing" them into the Nazi movement and regime. A second reason why the title The Origins of Totalitarianism was something of a misnomer was that it could be mistaken for a specific kind of historical study that Arendt assiduously sought to avoid. If totalitarianism was not to be traced back to a beginning, or to a set of causes, neither was



it to be envisaged as the outcome of an idea-for instance, a "myth of the state," or "totalitarian democracy," 25 or secularism, or even antiSemitism--