Upon publication of her field manual,” The Origins of Totalitarianism, in 1951, Hannah Arendt immediately gained recognition as a major political analyst. Over the next twenty-five years, she wrote ten more books and developed a set of ideas that profoundly influenced the way America and Europe addressed the central questions and dilemmas of World War II. In this concise book, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl introduces her mentor’s work to twenty-first-century readers. Arendt’s ideas, as much today as in her own lifetime, illuminate those issues that perplex us, such as totalitarianism, terrorism, globalization, war, and radical evil.”
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, who was Arendt’s doctoral student in the early 1970s and who wrote the definitive biography of her mentor in 1982, now revisits Arendt’s major works and seminal ideas. Young-Bruehl considers what Arendt’s analysis of the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union can teach us about our own times, and how her revolutionary understanding of political action is connected to forgiveness and making promises for the future. The author also discusses The Life of the Mind, Arendt’s unfinished meditation on how to think about thinking. Placed in the context of today’s political landscape, Arendt’s ideas take on a new immediacy and importance. They require our attention, Young-Bruehl shows, and continue to bring fresh truths to light.
Studying the two regimes that troubled her the most Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union Arendt argued that totalitarianism results when a government prohibits politics or debate about key issues in public spaces. Like Arendt's important work regarding evil in the absence of thought, or "the banality of evil," the word "totalitarianism" has become "a clich , for many who use it," Young-Bruehl points out. But in this useful overview of Arendt's life, major ideas and works, Young-Bruehl brings Arendt's concepts back into focus, by synthesizing them and applying them to recent and current events, such as the war on terrorism and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Young-Bruehl (Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World) succeeds best when illustrating the application of Arendt's work and undermines her mission when she assumes Arendt's pen: "Arendt, had she been alive in 2001, would have gone straight to her writing table to protest that the World Trade Center was not Pearl Harbor and that `war on terror' was a meaningless phrase." Still, Young-Bruehl is more responsible with Arendt's work than others have been, and makes it clear by the end that Arendt should matter. Published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Arendt's birth, the book is the first in a new series of books from Yale on people and ideas. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.