Hannah Arendt's America
HANNAH ARENDT is our teacher. First, in The Origins of Totalitarianism, she taught us about the great horror of our time; then, in The Human Condition, she taught us about how the Greeks understood the political life, and how different their understanding was from that of modern man, and how we had descended in our politics from seeking virtue and fame to seeking security and the good things of ordinary life. But in addition to these matters, she has also sought to instruct us on other themes-the question of the responsibility for the Nazi Holocaust (in Eichmann in Jerusalem) and the issues of American public life (in Crises of the Republic)-and as she has moved into these other themes, her teaching has for many of us become increasingly obscure.
A recent example of such obscurity is the address she delivered to the Boston Bicentennial Forum last spring and which she subsequently published as an article in the New York Review of Books under the title “Home to Roost.”* Because Hannah Arendt is so influential a thinker, her reflections on America as it enters its bicentennial year must be taken very seriously; and indeed they have already been much acclaimed, despite their troubling obscurity.
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