Hannah Arendt

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Arendt, Hannah

(hän`ä är`ənt), 1906–75, German-American political theorist, b. Hanover, Germany, B.A. Königsberg, 1924, Ph.D. Heidelberg, 1928. In 1925 she met Martin HeideggerHeidegger, Martin
, 1889–1976, German philosopher. As a student at Freiburg, Heidegger was influenced by the neo-Kantianism of Heinrich Rickert and the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl.
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, who greatly influenced her thought and who became both her teacher and briefly her lover. Later, in Heidelberg, she became a student of Karl JaspersJaspers, Karl
, 1883–1969, German philosopher and psychopathologist, b. Oldenburg. After receiving his medical degree (1909) he became (1914) lecturer in psychology and in 1922 professor of philosophy at the Univ. of Heidelberg.
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, another important influence. A Jew, Arendt fled Germany in 1933, immigrated (1941) to the United States, lived in New York City, and was naturalized in 1950.

As her English improved, Arendt became a regular contributor of articles to leading American journals. Her wartime essays have been collected in The Jewish Writings (2008). Also a successful academic, she became a lecturer and Guggenheim fellow, 1952–53; visiting professor at the Univ. of California at Berkeley, 1955; the first woman appointed to a full professorship at Princeton, 1959; and visiting professor of government at Columbia, 1960. From 1963 to 1967 she was professor at the Univ. of Chicago, and in 1967 she became university professor at the New School for Social Research.

With the publication of Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) her status as a major political thinker was firmly established. In this book she examined the major forms of 20th-century totalitarianismtotalitarianism
, a modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs
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—National Socialism (Nazism) and Communism—and attempted to trace their origins in the anti-Semitism and imperialism of the 19th cent. Her second major American publication, The Human Condition (1958), likewise received wide acclaim. Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), her analysis of the Nazi war crimes based on observation of the trial of Adolf EichmannEichmann, Adolf
, 1906–62, German National Socialist official. A member of the Austrian Nazi party, he headed the Austrian office for Jewish emigration (1938). His zeal in deporting Jews brought him promotion (1939) to chief of the Gestapo's Jewish section.
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, stirred considerable controversy and became known particularly for her concept of "the banality of evil." She also posited that Eichmann suffered from an "inability to think" and did not really understand Naziism, ideas that have been disputed by several later scholars.

Arendt also served as research director of the Conference on Jewish Relations (1944–46) and executive director of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, New York City (1949–52). Her other writings include On Revolution (1963), Men in Dark Times (1968), On Violence (1969), and Crises of the Republic (1972).


See L. Kohler and H. Saner, ed., Hannah Arendt–Karl Jaspers: Correspondence, 1926–1969 (tr. by R. and R. Kimber, 1992), C. Brightman, ed., Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949–1975 (1995), and U. Ludtz, ed., Letters, 1925–1975: Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger (2003); biographies by E. Young-Bruehl (1982) and M.-I. Brudny (2008); E. Ettinger, Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger (1995), D. Villa, Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political (1995), and R. Wolin, Heidegger's Children (2001); studies by S. J. Whitfield (1980), L. Bradshaw (1989), and H. F. Pitkin (1998); B. Stangneth, Eichmann before Jerusalem (2011, tr. 2014); A. Ushpiz, dir., Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (documentary, 2016).

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Arendt, Hannah

(1906–75) historian, political philosopher; born in Hanover, Germany. Of Jewish ancestry, she received her doctorate in philosophy at Heidelberg (1929) and fled Hitler's Germany for France (1933) and the United States (1940), where she was naturalized in 1951. Her reputation as a scholar and writer was firmly established with the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which linked Nazism and Communism to 19th-century imperialism and anti-Semitism. Internationally recognized as the best-known American political theorist of her generation, she was both a prominent member of America's literary and academic elite and a revered mentor. Her teaching career included stints at Princeton (1953, 1959), Berkeley, the University of Chicago (1963–67), Columbia, Northwestern, and Cornell Universities, and the New School for Social Research (1967–75). Her most controversial major work, Eichmann in Jerusalem, a Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), suggested that it was simplistic to pin all the guilt for Nazi genocide on functionaries such as Adolf Eichmann; she maintained that other Germans, Western countries, and even the Jews had consented actively or passively to evil as well.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Like many authors of the interwar and postwar period, Hannah Arendt was dissatisfied with historical and dialectical materialism, but tried to constructively engage with it, despite her concerns about its role in the formation of totalitarian regimes.
Caption: Filmmaker Ada Ushpiz interviewed a number of intellectuals, including her subject Hannah Arendt, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.
While Curthoys builds toward asserting a relationship between Ernst Cassirer (chapters five and six) and Hannah Arendt (chapters seven and eight), in the process he seeks to revise our focus regarding each of these thinkers.