Hannah Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism
“Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena—homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.” – Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
When Hannah Arendt published The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951 she set out to provide a political framework for understanding the phenomenal appearance of National Socialism in the world, and its terrifying consequences. Offering a historical account of imperialism, anti-Semitism, and the atomized individual, Arendt’s work remains one of the most profound attempts at understanding the underlying social, political, and economic conditions that enabled totalitarianism to emerge. In this course, students will read the entirety of the text and consider Arendt’s accounts of modern anti-Semitism, the spread of imperialism, and the human right’s crisis engendered by the normalization of the nation-state following the First World War. In what ways did the institution of racism, as a form of ideology that collapsed the private and public realms create an “iron-band” of totalitarianism? How was the rise of totalitarianism linked to the nation-state and the dissolution of heterogeneous modes of living together? And what are the contemporary implications of Arendt’s critique in this new era of refugees and statelessness, wherein the living conditions of “mere life” remain horrifically common?
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
October 17 — November 07, 2023