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The Promise of Politicsby Hannah Arendt
Synopses & Reviews
After the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, Hannah Arendt undertook an investigation of Marxism, a subject that she had deliberately left out of her earlier work. Her inquiry intoMarx's philosophy led her to a critical examination of the entire tradition of Western political thought, from its origins in Plato and Aristotle to its culmination and conclusion in Marx. The Promise of Politicstells how Arendt came to understand the failure of that tradition to account for human action.
From the time that Socrates was condemned to death by his fellow citizens, Arendt finds that philosophershave followed Plato in constructing political theories at the expense of political experiences, including the pre-philosophic Greek experience of beginning, the Roman experience of founding, and the Christian experience offorgiving. It is a fascinating, subtle, and original story, which bridges Arendt's work from The Origins of Totalitarianism to The Human Condition, published in 1958. These writings, which deal with the conflictbetween philosophy and politics, have never before been gathered and published.
The final and longer section of The Promise of Politics, titled "Introduction into Politics," waswritten in German and is published here for the first time in English. This remarkable meditation on the modern prejudice against politics asks whether politics has any meaning at all anymore. Although written in thelatter half of the 1950s, what Arendt says about the relation of politics to human freedom could hardly have greater relevance for our own time. When politics is considered as a means to an end that lies outside of itself, when force is used to "create" freedom, political principles vanish from the face of the earth. For Arendt, politics has no "end"; instead, it has at times been-and perhapscan be again-the never-ending endeavor of the great plurality of human beings to live together and share the earth in mutually guaranteed freedom. That is the promise ofpolitics.
"From the Hardcover edition."
Hannah Arendt was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1906, fled to Paris in 1933, and came to the United States after the outbreak of World War II. She was editorial director of Schocken Books from 1946 to 1948. She taught at Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Chicago, and The New School for Social Research. Arendt died in 1975.
From the Hardcover edition.
In The Promise of Politics, Hannah Arendt examines the conflict between philosophy and politics. In particular, she shows how the tradition of Western political thought, which extends from Plato and Aristotle to its culmination in Marx, failed to account for human action. The concluding section of the book, “Introduction into Politics,” examines an issue that is as timely today as it was when Arendt first wrote about it fifty years ago-the modern prejudice against politics. When politics is considered as a means to an end that lies outside of itself, argues Arendt, when force is used to create “freedom,” the very existence of political principles is imperiled.
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