Conversation on totalitarianism | AIER

Reprinted from Law and Freedom

Truly, I live in darkness! “Bertolt Brecht laments in his 1940 poem, To those who were born later. The German playwright felt that he was “in the dark” because he had no ready answer to the problems he and his contemporaries faced on the eve of World War II. The Western political thinking found in Brecht’s generation – their tradition – did not tell them how to deal with the inhumanity of totalitarianism without committing inhumane acts. Due to the lack of traditional guiding light to understand their plight, Brecht and his contemporaries had to create their own trajectory through the darkness that engulfed them. In order to answer the question raised by the unprecedented threat posed by Nazi Germany and later the Soviet Union, they had to reconsider their conventional wisdom about politics.

Brecht’s lament is undoubtedly true for the millions of Americans today who are deeply disappointed with the political stability of the United States but do not know how to change it. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike feel that they, like Brecht’s generation, are “in the dark” because the current conventional wisdom about politics does not fully explain political reality. And not being able to explain it; To resolve the conflict between what Americans believe to be true about politics and its reality is their frustrated and increasingly indifferent politics and their growing indifference to world-changing power.

Yet, despite their deep frustration, Americans today are not as “in the dark” as Brecht did when he lamented his plight on the eve of World War II. This is because the political problems that Americans are currently facing – no matter how serious – cannot be compared to the threat posed by national socialism and communism. Moreover, Americans have the theoretical tools to meet their current challenges. They can look to Brecht’s generation of innovative thinkers to show them the way in seemingly uncertain times.

These two thinkers – Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin – are particularly relevant for understanding the current state of American politics because their work shares the general theme of questioning traditional political thought when it cannot explain political reality. And they are the subject of a new book by Kai Hiruta – Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin: Freedom, Politics and Humanity – which examines their political thinking through the lens of their professional relationship with each other. Hiruta’s lens is intriguing because there was a contentious relationship between Arendt and Berlin although they were interested in many of the same events and shared similar views on the failure of traditional political thought to convey political reality at unprecedented times.

Hiruta illuminates the political thinking of the two thinkers Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin “Putting their ideas into a conversation.” And he framed the analysis of their political thinking using their “unfortunate relationship”. Using Arendt’s and Berlin’s controversial relationship, Hiruta gives a wider audience a compelling entry for their ideas.

Hirutar, an assistant professor at Arhas University in Denmark, has an impressive lineage that makes him uniquely useful for writing a book that he described as “the first comprehensive study of all the personal, political and theoretical aspects of the Arendt-Berlin conflict.” He studied political theory at Oxford University in England, where he also studied and taught for most of his career in Berlin. He co-founded an academic journal focusing on Arendt’s life, work and legacy.

Hiruta’s goal Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin His subject matter – both Arendt and Berlin – is crucial to understand how a generation of thinkers coped with the unprecedented intellectual challenge posed by the rise of totalitarianism in the first half of the admirable twentieth century. And their work is particularly relevant today because it can help Americans diagnose the dysfunction that currently confuses their politics. Yet, despite its timeliness Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin And despite Hiruta’s encyclopedic knowledge of the book’s protagonists, his efforts to engage a wider audience in a related experiment on the relationship between Arendt and Berlin’s ideas fall short.

Its central thesis Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin – Readers can better understand the two thinkers by combining their ideas in the context of their intense relationship – it’s fresh. By doing so, Hiruta gives his readers a detailed and knowledgeable survey of the ideas of both thinkers. He sheds light, albeit indirectly, on how Arendt and Berlin readers better understand the political situation and how it can change.

Hiruta uses a two-part approach to illuminating the importance of the Arendtus-Berlin relationship in understanding their political thinking. First, he begins the book by using a historical-biographical approach to establish a connection between his heroes. Then, after analyzing the three examples of the meeting of Arendt and Berlin, Hiruta turned to using a theoretical method to compare and contrast their political thoughts and highlight their ideas. In particular, he examines the thinking of Arendt and Berlin, “a fundamental issue that connects and divides simultaneously” – the question of freedom and liberty, the inhumanity of human nature and omnipresence. The book concludes with a brief examination of how both Arendt and Berlin create divisions between theory and practice in their work.

Still Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin Yet three fall short in significant ways. First, Hiruta does not provide a clear and concise explanation of why the relationship between Arendtus and Berlin helps readers better understand their political thinking. Instead, his historical-biographical approach assumes that the two thinkers had a meaningful connection and that their relationship was mutually exclusive. The book shows, albeit unintentionally, that Arendt and Berlin did not have a meaningful relationship and that their feelings about each other were not mutually exclusive. Hiruta admits Berlin’s deep dislike for Arendt, quoting him at one point as “I really hate him the most.” But Hiruta then admits that “Arendt never repays Berlin’s hostility.”

Second, the limited interaction between Arendt and Berlin – they only met on three occasions and did not correspond with each other – forced Hiruta to rely on conjecture and conjecture to start a conversation between their ideas. Hiruta, for example, analyzes Berlin’s perspective on the work of Bernard Creek and guesses what Berlin thought about Arendt’s ideas about freedom and independence. Creek was one of the leading Arendians in England at the time. Hiruta writes, “Since Berlin has not commented directly on Arendt’s own writings on independence … it is worth considering his reaction to Creek as a proxy for his views on Arendt.” Hiruta similarly claims that Berlin’s hatred of Arendt can also be documented by examining his deep dislike for the Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher, who explored many of the same topics in his writings as Arendt.

Finally, the book’s excessive mechanical prose diminishes its readability and limits its appeal to the general public. It falls in several places like a revised research article, using phrases such as, “I will build an explanatory bridge in the following chapter so that the ideas of Arendtus and Berlin can communicate with each other” and additional descriptive adaptations such as, “These questions will be considered here first.” I … go back to the next chapters. ” Hiruta can expand her audience if she spends more time showing and telling the book.

However, they should warn themselves to find out the baseless assumptions that Hiruta makes throughout the book. Finally, readers unfamiliar with overly dense academic writing should steel themselves for a periodic slog of a text. Hiruta has contributed to the current task of finding our way out of the darkness in which Americans find themselves. And readers should only consider it for this reason.

Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin Less falls because its structure – the “dissenting relationship” between Arendtus and Berlin – unnecessarily distracts readers from the general efforts of two thinkers to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom about politics and political reality. That is, each thinker followed the line of inquiry into the failure of conventional political thought to explain the practice of politics. By doing this, both Arendt and Berlin were trying to reconcile the contradictions between the world around them and how they thought about its reality. Americans of all persuasions will find the value of Arendt and Berlin very valuable. Even a cursory lesson in their work will help Americans better understand the reasons for their own political inaction by encouraging them to think for themselves instead of relying on old conventional wisdom that fails to accurately portray political reality in the first place.

Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin This is an impressive volume that readers should not consider for any reason other than a separate analysis of Arendtus and Berlin’s political thought. However, readers of the book should be wary of the hypothetical confusion about the relationship between Arendt and Berlin, which, unfortunately, does not shed light on their fascinating ideas. Hiruta may not have contributed much to the thought of finding our way out of the darkness in which the Americans have imprisoned themselves. But he has shown the way by highlighting the obsolete political thinking of Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin. It is up to us to follow in their footsteps and think of our own ways to find ourselves in the dark.

James Walner

James Walner is a Senior Fellow at the R. Street Institute, where he writes about the theory and practice of democratic politics.

He is also a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Clemson University.

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