Another Origin of Totalitarianism: Arendt on the Loneliness of Liberal Citizens

Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 47 (1):1-17 (2016)
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This paper examines Hannah Arendt's notion of citizenship with reference to her account of loneliness in the modern age. Whereas recent scholarship has emphasized Arendt's notion of the “right to have rights” in order to advance her conception of citizenship in the context of global democratic theory, I maintain that this discourse threatens to overshadow the depth of her critical relation to the liberal tradition. By turning to loneliness, I aim to show that Arendt's understanding of citizenship guides a prescient critique of the basic assumptions that underlie notions of citizenship within liberal political theory. On her view, these forms of citizenship do not secure liberty, but instead reproduce the very loneliness that has made modern individuals susceptible to totalitarian domination. With this, I argue that Arendt poses her notion of citizenship as an antidote to loneliness and, thus, to the vulnerability of modern political life to totalitarianism



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Jennifer Gaffney
Loyola University, Chicago

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References found in this work

Being and Time.Ronald W. Hepburn - 1964 - Philosophical Quarterly 14 (56):276.
Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question.Richard J. Bernstein - 1996 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 34 (1):323-326.
Arendt and Adorno: political and philosophical investigations.Lars Rensmann & Samir Gandesha (eds.) - 2012 - Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

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