Vol. 45 No. 3 1978 - page 351

her stress on the importance of new beginnings out of nothing, her
belief in the role of deeds as opposed to pure contemplation, her
agreement with Jaspers's stress on intersubjective communication as
the source of a new humanism, her insistence that philosophy must
transcend historicism, all of these were to figure prominently in her
political theorizing. So too was her persistent reliance on the etymolog–
ical significance of a word to explain its "real" meaning, which was a
favorite ploy of Heidegger in particular. The explicit politicization of
was to come somewhat later in 1958 with
Human Condition,
the most ambitious of her theoretical works, but all
the ingredients were there in her postwar essay.
Perhaps what made· her reluctant to spell it out was the memory of
previous attempts to derive political conclusions from existentialism in
the Weimar era. In addition to her teacher Heidegger, whose political
adventures were confined to a brief, sorry period after the Nazi era
began, the "political existentialists" of the twenties included Carl
Schmitt, Ernst Junger and Alfred Baumler. Because all of them, to one
degree or another, have been seen by most historians as having
prepared the way for fascism, it is not surprising that Hannah Arendt,
so outspoken in her criticism of totalitarianism, would shun their
company. There can in fact be little question that she found much of
their thought intolerable. Thus, she wrote against the celebration of
violence in Junger, and criticized Schmitt's emphasis on sovereignty
and his glorification of movements rather than parties. She was equall y
opposed to their view of politics as the continuation of war by other
means, having instead a far more benign reading of the public realm as
an arena of pluralist cooperation. She also admitted that the
excesses of Heidegger's coll aborationist period were "mythologizing
confusions," although she refrained from linking his philosophy as a
whole with his sympathy for fascism as did another of his former
students, Herbert Marcuse.
And yet despite these criticisms, Hannah Arendt's political philos–
ophy can justly be situated in the political existentialist tradition of the
1920s, albeit as one of its "tender" rather than "tough" variants. To
stress this link is useful not because it establishes some sort of guilt 'by
association, but rather because it provides the historical context in
which her apparently uncategorizable position begins to make sense.
On the most general level, it all ows us to see the broad movement of
which she was a part, a movement which asserted the primacy of the
political realm over society, culture, economics, or religion as the arena
in which man's most quintessentially human quality, his capacity for
freedom, cou ld be realized. In opposition to the typical nineteenth-
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