Hannah Arendt: the crisis of authority


Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a German-American philosopher and political theorist. Her many books and articles on topics ranging from totalitarianism to epistemology have had a lasting influence on political theory. Arendt is widely considered one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century.

Reading Arendt today is very helpful to have an explanation about the crisis of authorities, from parental one to politics, from educational authority to societal figures. So how can Arendt tell us more about today’s world?

In her anthology Crises of the Republic, consisting of four essays, “Lying in Politics”, “Civil Disobedience”, “On Violence” and “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution”, she studies the contemporary American politics and the crises it faced in the 1960s and 1970s. “Lying in Politics” (which is one of the main criteria of politics as said by Nicolas Machiavelli) looks for an explanation behind the administration’s deception regarding the Vietnam War, as revealed in the Pentagon Papers.  “Civil Disobedience” examines the opposition movements, while the final “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution” is a commentary, in the form of an interview on the third essay, “On Violence”. In the latter, Arendt declares that violence presupposes power which she understands as a property of groups.

This anthology is easier to read than her other books. It sums up the reasons why politics have failed to trust it in general. Adding to lying and violence, social media and mass communication brought systems down. Being States in States, social media sites and platforms are transnational, dismantling frontiers and old values. Demystification and opinions rage, followed by civil disobedience, lead to crises in democracies and Republics.

Authority has never been more fragile.

6 thoughts on “Hannah Arendt: the crisis of authority”

  1. Fascinating. You bring more German philosophers into my life than me living in Germany 😉
    I think there is something interesting that foreigners often see things fresh and it being exotic give it a new chance to be explored. An Indian Yoga teacher is inspired by Westerners whilst I am researching into the Vedas.
    I guess the grass is always greener.


    The only aspect I would doubt Hanna Arendt having raised in her lifetime was the social media aspect, because the internet did not exist in her lifetime, even lesser so the ‘web 2.0’ with its soical media structure.
    But therefore she might have referred to TV which was born in her life, and the structure is similar – it just was a one-way-communication back then.

    Just this morning I observed how comments in social networks became more and more audacious,
    and i think it is due to the fact that social networks are structured to be anonymous.
    Would there be a social network with verification of each account, people would literally feel more accountable for what the dish out mindlessly.
    The way it is structured now is merely to cater for the dumbest denominator which makes me doubt the value of democracy.
    I guess ancient Greeks had a point hoping for a dictatorship of philosophers.

    To me it does not seem only that ‘the elite above’ is destroying our lifes, but to an even larger extend the stupidity of the masses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In your way of commenting, you are very german, which is a quality to look up to from my point of view.

      Maybe the grass is greener on the other side, but philosophers (germans in majority) have been and still my masters of thinking. I learned how to think while reading them. And i learned to criticize them by reading them also. I think no matter how far you go, you are still a tree linked to your roots.

      I am a Middle Eastern, so I am in between the East and the West. It explains my double attraction to western and eastern philosophies.

      Without wanting to bore you, I love many things about Arendt. She was a synthesis of big philosophers and a courageous woman for telling the truth and paying a high price for it in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. I like people who stand for their ideas.

      Thank you for your wonderful comments


  2. Wow, you’ve sparked my interest. Crises of the Republic sounds like a must read. Entailing all the pressing issues that we ourselves face today. I’ve just checked my local Library (with links to all others) and unfortunately they don’t carry that specific title. However there are 3 other books authored by her?
    – Responsibility and Judgment
    – The Origins of Totalitarianism
    – Eichmann in Jerusalem
    A Report on the Banality of Evil
    Or do you recommend sticking to Crisis of the Republic? I know you’ve said its an easier read?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eichmann in Jerusalem! Eichmann was a former nazi agent caught in Venezuela in the 70s and brought to trial in Israel. Hannah Arendt was sent to Israel as a reporter of this trial. What she found out and wrote about in this book was shocking, both for nazi lovers back then and for zionists. She paid a high price for telling the truth. So yes I recommend this one

      Liked by 1 person

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