Think­ing in Dark Times: Han­nah Arendt on Ethics and Politics

Roger Berkowitz, Jef­frey Katz, and Thomas Keenan, eds.
  • Review
By – August 25, 2011
In 2006, Bard Col­lege con­vened an inter­na­tion­al sym­po­sium to cel­e­brate what would have been the 100th birth­day of polit­i­cal the­o­rist Han­nah Arendt. The con­fer­ence led to a book, but for­tu­nate­ly, a book with a dif­fer­ence. Each entry in this remark­ably intel­li­gent, pas­sion­ate vol­ume is the result of an oral pre­sen­ta­tion rather than vice ver­sa, so there is less of the impen­e­tra­ble jar­gon that so often plagues the festschrift, although no analy­sis of Arendt could be called easy read­ing. With rel­a­tive­ly short entries from each of the 25 con­trib­u­tors, a vari­ety of approach­es to Arendt can be sam­pled. For instance, Peg Birm­ing­ham takes Arendt’s term, a lying world order” and sug­gests its impli­ca­tions for the cur­rent war on ter­ror.’ Christo­pher Hitchens pars­es the con­tem­po­rary mean­ing of anti-Semi­tism’ in light of Arendt’s analy­ses. The most inter­est­ing essays for the Jew­ish read­er are those explor­ing Arendt’s Jew­ish iden­ti­ty — her ear­ly his­to­ry as a Ger­man refugee, her sup­port for a world Jew­ish army brigade to fight the Nazis, the mean­ing of her analy­sis of the Eich­mann tri­al in Jerusalem, and, more gen­er­al­ly, her com­plex sense of her­self as a Jew. While not a vol­ume for the gen­er­al read­er, this anthol­o­gy would be appro­pri­ate for any schol­ar­ly col­lec­tion. End­notes, index, photographs.

Bet­ti­na Berch, author of the recent biog­ra­phy, From Hes­ter Street to Hol­ly­wood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezier­s­ka, teach­es part-time at the Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­mu­ni­ty College.

Discussion Questions