WNPR

What Can Hannah Arendt Teach Us About This Moment?

Jun 29, 2017

Hannah Arendt's 576-page magnum opus, The Origins of Totalitarianism, is a densely-written book about the rise of anti-Semitism up to the outbreak of World War I. The book sold out on Amazon within one month of the 2016 election in which America elected Donald Trump as their next president. 

Hannah Arendt wrote the book in the 1940's after reflecting on her personal experience as a survivor of persecution in Nazi Germany. She was exiled from her home after protesting against the third Reich only to be captured in Paris and sent to Gurs concentration camp. She escaped to America to contemplate how the killing of over six million people could happen.

Her observations on the conditions that desensitized people to the signals of danger are as relevant today as then: the rise of a mass movement, ideologically-driven government, increasing social and political isolation and polarization, denunciation of truth, the press, and the rise of "alternative facts," and most importantly, the dehumanization of people based on their identity. 

GUESTS:

  • George Prochnik - Writer, editor-at-large for Cabinet Magazine, and author of several books including Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem
  • Roger Berkowitz - Founder and academic director of the Hannah Arendt Center and associate professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Human Rights at Bard College, and currently writing a book with Peter Baehr, On Totalitarianism: Hannah Arendt In Her Time and Ours
  • Kathleen B. Jones - Professor Emeritus of political theory and women’s studies at San Diego University and the author of several books, including most recently Diving for Pearls: A Thinking Journey with Hannah Arendt

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.