- Series: Harvest Book
- Paperback: 120 pages
- Publisher: Harcourt Brace Javanovich; 1 edition (March 11, 1970)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780156695008
- ISBN-13: 978-0156695008
- ASIN: 0156695006
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Violence (Harvest Book) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was an influential German political theorist and philosopher whose works include The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem.
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Top customer reviews
What I enjoy most about reading Hannah Arendt is that she cannot be classified into a political school of thought, theoretical framework or political ideology. She is not a Marxist, or a Hegelian nor is she a classic liberal or a conservative. She is a not a libertarian nor a capitalist, socialist or communist. She is an independent thinker in political and social issues which is indeed a very rarefied quality that keeps her work relevant and fresh some forty years after her death. Only the examples in the text are dated, not the thinking or analysis offered.
As America transforms itself into a quasi-plutocracy with the citizens of this society having too much to lose to allow anything, especially political violence, no matter the cause, interfere with the smooth workings of the consumer society, one might wonder how relevant a philosophical examination of political violence might indeed be under such circumstances. After all, the American techno-consumer lifestyle is non-negotiable and violence can only disturb an otherwise self-absorbed, self-satisfied, self-interested complacent citizenry. Hannah Arendt identified this process as already underway forty years ago as she saw participatory self-government giving way to indifferent bureaucracy. There is an ongoing attenuation of political participation, responsibility and thus political freedom on the part of the citizenry.
Hannah Arendt points out that part of the problem is that we like to hold in high regard our governing principle of enlightened self-interest not realizing that self-interest cannot be enlightened because by definition self-interest is self-defined and self-centered and cannot be enlightened beyond itself. Self-interest and the public-interest have mismatching time horizons. Self qua self cannot be enlightened beyond the self and the American citizenry, in the midst of such self-ness may not be an enlightened enough citizenry with a broad enough perspective to maintain the constitutional framework. As Hannah Arendt points out, it is as if we are determined to repeat with great haste the very errors of the European nations that the framers of the Constitution sought to correct.
Before we become even more complacent and self-absorbed, I think we should still consider Hannah Ardent’s very relevant and thoughtful analysis about the use and consequences of violence in political action before such violence rears up again with us little able to understand it and deal with it.
In my own small way I have also prepared a summary of each of the three very engaging parts but elected not to post it with the understanding that perspective readers of a book of this caliber do not need a ‘Cliff Notes’ style summary in order to understand and evaluate the thesis as well as its implications for contemporary American political and social culture.
Some of the most impacting quotes for me:
"Rage is by no means an automatic reaction to misery and suffering as such; no one reacts with rage to an incurable disease or to an earthquake or, for that matter, to social conditions that seem to be unchangeable. Only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed and are not does rage arise. Only when our sense of justice is offended do we react with rage, and this reaction by no means necessarily reflects personal injury, as is demonstrated by the whole history of injury, as is demonstrated by the whole history of revolution, where invariably members of the upper classes touched off and then led the rebellions of the oppressed and downtrodden."
"Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance... Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it."
"Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime is the best excuse for doing nothing."
"Racism, white or black, is fraught with violence by definition because it objects to natural organic facts - a white or black skin - which no persuasion or power could change; all one can do, when the chips are down, is to exterminate their bearers. Racism, as distinguished from race, is not a fact of life, but an ideology, and the deeds it leads to are not reflex actions, but deliberate acts based on pseudo-scientific theories. Violence in interracial struggle is always murderous, but it is not "irrational"; it is the logical and rational consequence of racism, by which I do not mean some rather vague prejudices on either side, but an explicit ideological system."
"The technical development of the implements of violence has now reached the point where no political goal could conceivably correspond to their destructive potential or justify their actual use in armed conflict."