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Politics, Philosophy, Terror: Essays on the Thought of Hannah Arendt
     

Politics, Philosophy, Terror: Essays on the Thought of Hannah Arendt

by Dana Villa
 

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Hannah Arendt's rich and varied political thought is more influential today than ever before, due in part to the collapse of communism and the need for ideas that move beyond the old ideologies of the Cold War. As Dana Villa shows, however, Arendt's thought is often poorly understood, both because of its complexity and because her fame has made it easy for critics

Overview

Hannah Arendt's rich and varied political thought is more influential today than ever before, due in part to the collapse of communism and the need for ideas that move beyond the old ideologies of the Cold War. As Dana Villa shows, however, Arendt's thought is often poorly understood, both because of its complexity and because her fame has made it easy for critics to write about what she is reputed to have said rather than what she actually wrote. Villa sets out to change that here, explaining clearly, carefully, and forcefully Arendt's major contributions to our understanding of politics, modernity, and the nature of political evil in our century.

Villa begins by focusing on some of the most controversial aspects of Arendt's political thought. He shows that Arendt's famous idea of the banality of evil--inspired by the trial of Adolf Eichmann--does not, as some have maintained, lessen the guilt of war criminals by suggesting that they are mere cogs in a bureaucratic machine. He examines what she meant when she wrote that terror was the essence of totalitarianism, explaining that she believed Nazi and Soviet terror served above all to reinforce the totalitarian idea that humans are expendable units, subordinate to the all-determining laws of Nature or History. Villa clarifies the personal and philosophical relationship between Arendt and Heidegger, showing how her work drew on his thought while providing a firm repudiation of Heidegger's political idiocy under the Nazis. Less controversially, but as importantly, Villa also engages with Arendt's ideas about the relationship between political thought and political action. He explores her views about the roles of theatricality, philosophical reflection, and public-spiritedness in political life. And he explores what relationship, if any, Arendt saw between totalitarianism and the "great tradition" of Western political thought. Throughout, Villa shows how Arendt's ideas illuminate contemporary debates about the nature of modernity and democracy and how they deepen our understanding of philosophers ranging from Socrates and Plato to Habermas and Leo Strauss.

Direct, lucid, and powerfully argued, this is a much-needed analysis of the central ideas of one of the most influential political theorists of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

Lingua Franca
Villa explores the tensions between [Hannah] Arendt's disdain for those who fail to think and her distrust of the contemplative retreat from the world. . . . [A] lucid and illuminating book. . . .
— John Plotz
Choice
In this splendid collection Villa focuses on Arendt's analysis of totalitarian evil and its relationship to the philosophical tradition.
Lingua Franca - John Plotz
Villa explores the tensions between [Hannah] Arendt's disdain for those who fail to think and her distrust of the contemplative retreat from the world. . . . [A] lucid and illuminating book. . . .
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2000

"Villa explores the tensions between [Hannah] Arendt's disdain for those who fail to think and her distrust of the contemplative retreat from the world. . . . [A] lucid and illuminating book."—John Plotz, Lingua Franca

"In this splendid collection Villa focuses on Arendt's analysis of totalitarian evil and its relationship to the philosophical tradition."Choice

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400823161
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/30/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
269
File size:
625 KB

What People are Saying About This

Bernstein
Dana Villa ... has received international recognition for his Arendt and Heidegger—the finest work in any language concerning the philosophical indebtedness of Arendt to Heidegger. The analyses in this current book are always informative, insightful, and thought-provoking. The writing is forceful and lucid. The book eminently succeeds in showing why Arendt is one of the outstanding political theorists of the twentieth century.
Richard J. Bernstein, New School for Social Research
Mary G. Dietz
In the time-honored tradition of political theorizing, Politics, Philosophy, Terror cuts through a tangle of current disputations in order to clarify and assess particular and pertinent aspects of Hannah Arendt's thinking. Villa's book is also fluidly, even elegantly, written.
Richard J. Bernstein
Dana Villa...has received international recognition for his Arendt and Heidegger--the finest work in any language concerning the philosophical indebtedness of Arendt to Heidegger. The analyses in this current book are always informative, insightful, and thought-provoking. The writing is forceful and lucid. The book eminently succeeds in showing why Arendt is one of the outstanding political theorists of the twentieth century.
Dietz
In the time-honored tradition of political theorizing, Politics, Philosophy, Terror cuts through a tangle of current disputations in order to clarify and assess particular and pertinent aspects of Hannah Arendt's thinking. Villa's book is also fluidly, even elegantly, written.
Mary G. Dietz, University of Minnesota

Meet the Author

Dana R. Villa is the author of Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political (Princeton) and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt. He teaches political theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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