Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was a German political theorist who, over the course of many books, explored themes such as violence, revolution, and evil. Her major works include The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and the controversial Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which she coined the phrase “the banality of evil.”

Reflections on Violence

Hannah Arendt, New York City, 1944
Violence, being instrumental by nature, is rational to the extent that it is effective in reaching the end which must justify it. And since when we act we never know with any amount of certainty the eventual consequences of what we are doing, violence can remain rational only if it pursues short-term goals. Violence does not promote causes, it promotes neither History nor Revolution, but it can indeed serve to dramatize grievances and to bring them to public attention.

Hannah Arendt: From an Interview

Hannah Arendt made the comments that follow in 1974 during an interview with the French writer Roger Errera. TOTALITARIANISM Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have. The second step is the notion: “Things must change—no matter how, Anything is better than what we have.” Totalitarian rulers organize this kind …

Home to Roost: A Bicentennial Address

The crises of the Republic, of this form of government and its institutions of liberty, could be detected for decades, ever since what appears to us today as a minicrisis was triggered by Joe McCarthy. A number of occurrences followed which testified to an increasing disarray in the very foundations …

Martin Heidegger at Eighty

Martin Heidegger’s eightieth birthday was also the fiftieth anniversary of his public life, which he began not as an author—though he had already published a book on Duns Scotus—but as a university teacher. In barely three or four years since that first solid and interesting but still rather conventional study, …

Thoughts on Politics and Revolution

The following is based on an interview with Miss Arendt by the German writer Adelbert Reif, which took place in the summer of 1970. Question: In your study, On Violence, at several points you take up the question of the revolutionary student movement in the Western countries. In the end, …

A Special Supplement: Reflections on Violence

These reflections were provoked by the events and debates of the last few years, as seen against the background of the twentieth century. Indeed this century has become, as Lenin predicted, a century of wars and revolutions, hence a century of that violence which is currently believed to be their …

He’s All Dwight

When I was asked to write a brief introduction to the reprint edition of Politics I was tempted to yield to the rather pleasant melancholy of “once upon a time” and to indulge in the nostalgic contemplation that seems to be the appropriate mood for all recollection. Now that I …

A Heroine of Revolution

The definitive biography in the English style—lengthy, thoroughly documented, heavily annotated, and generously splashed with quotations—is among the most admirable genres of historiography, and it was a stroke of genius on the part of J. P. Nettl to choose the life of Rosa Luxemburg, the most unlikely candidate, as a …

“The Formidable Dr. Robinson”: A Reply

Miss Arendt, said Mr. Laqueur in his review of Jacob Robinson’s book And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight (NYR, Nov. 11) “had stumbled on what seemed a hornets’ nest but is in fact a very intricate and painful problem.” This sentence would be true if it read: “She stumbled …

The Christian Pope

This is a strangely disappointing and strangely fascinating book. Written for the most part in periods of retreat, it consists of endlessly repetitive devout outpourings and self-exhortations, “examinations of conscience” and notations of “spiritual progress,” with only the rarest references to actual happenings, so that for pages and pages it …

Nathalie Sarraute

With the exception of the early Tropismes, all of Nathalie Sarraute’s books are now available in English. Thanks are due to her publisher and to Maria Jolas who, to quote Janet Flanner in The New Yorker, has put her work “into English of such verisimilitude that it seems merely orchestrated …

The Fate of the Union: Kennedy and After

Was this “the loudest shot since Sarajevo”—as a BBC commentator, stunned by impact of the news, said? Does this shot mean that the brief “moment of comparative calm” and “rising hope,” of which the dead President spoke only two months ago in an address to the United Nations, will soon …