Welcome to Arendt in 60 Minutes

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) is rightly viewed as the world’s most important female philosopher. No other thinker, female or male, had such a personal experience of the age of totalitarianism or analysed it so precisely and objectively. Arendt still attracts worldwide attention with her discoveries of “the rule of Nobody” and “the banality of Evil”. In our modern mass societies, she argues, we obey authority far too easily and seldom take responsibility for ourselves. A typical modern man in this respect, she goes on, was the Nazi functionary Eichmann, who organized the transport of millions of human beings into extermination camps simply because it was “part of his job” to do it. Arendt was present at his trial for war crimes and made an amazing discovery. Eichmann was not, as many contended, a “perverted monster”. Rather, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverse nor sadistic but were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal”. It was here that Arendt formulated her brilliant but controversial thesis of “the banality of Evil”. Because it was the “banal” mentality of “doing one’s daily duty” of Eichmann and many others that made the horrors of Nazism possible. Still today we obey authority far too easily. But each citizen, Arendt argues, should be able, if need be, to think and act against all laws and rules. Should classes in such “civil disobedience” be part of our children’s education? Is there an Eichmann in all of us? How much “civic courage” can and must still be demanded even of the modern individual? Hannah Arendt gives clear, trenchant answers to these questions. The book is published as part of the popular series “Great Thinkers in 60 Minutes”. 

Readers votes:

“Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism is fascinating. She brilliantly reveals how it arose out of a combination of mediocrity and megalomania.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                     Dieter Weinle

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