Unit 3 Assignment 1 Emily McDill

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975):

  • German Jewish political philosopher who sought to explain politics and one’s political identity as a separate entity from other aspects of one’s life
  • “Phenomenological reconstruction”
  • Phenomenological: “Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view.” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/ 
  • Arendt actively resisted the rise of Nazism through work with the German Zionist Organization, and was arrested/incarcerated for conducting research on anti-semitic propoganda employed by the Gestapo 
  • Forced to move to New York during WWII, where she published The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • After WWII she advocated for a Jewish state and worked for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction project 



The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)

  • Analyzes and draws parallels between Nazism and Stalinsm 
  • Asserts that Totalitarianism is distinct from other types of absolute rule because it uses terror as a tool to control large populations 
  • Analyzes how these totalitarian regimes rose to power: antisemitism, imperialism/colonialism, propaganda
  • Totalitarian governments are unique because they seek more than political power; they want control over every aspect of one’s life and aspire to “world domination” 
  • “Radical evil”- describes the horrific acts committed during the Holocaust, unimaginable that such evil acts could be committed before 
  • Has unique insight/ perspective as a German-Jewish and female author



Adolf Eichmann:

  • High-ranking Nazi offical 
  • Put in charge of “The Final Solution” (transport of Jewish people to death camps)
  • Put on trial and executed in Israel 
  • Removed himself completely from the emotional implications of his actions- claimed not to be anti-semetic and justified his actions by saying he was just following orders 


“Banality of Evil”

  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of Evil (1963)
  • “Banality of evil” is in the last line of the book
  • This phrase describes Arendt’s disgust with Eichmann’s lack of remorse for his actions during his trial 
  • How can someone carry out such evil acts and consider them simply another day at the job?
  • Asserts that Eichmann is not especially evil, he just lacked the ability to think for himself and followed orders blindly
  • Arendt’s statement caused a lot of controversy- many argue that Eichmann must have been especially evil to carry out such evil actions


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