Why Arendt Matters


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Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

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From Arendt’s preeminent biographer, an exploration of the particular relevance of the great philosopher’s thought to the world of today

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.

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl is a faculty member at the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and a practicing psychoanalyst. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy under Hannah Arendt’s supervision at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. She lives in New York City.

"What would she be thinking, what would she be saying, right now, about all this? Thus do many of us, long bereft, find ourselves repeatedly pondering regarding the late, incomparably lucid and passionate Hannah Arendt. How unexpectedly lucky for us therefore becomes this book, this gift from Ms. Arendt's passionately lucid biographer: a text, both clear and urgent, that comes astonishingly close to providing an answer. Grounding her analysis in a vividly concise summation of the entire arc of her subject's life-thought, it's almost as if Young-Bruehl were channeling Arendt, right now, today, when we really need her."—Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and author of Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences

“Young-Bruehl is more responsible with Arendt’s work than others have been, and makes it clear by the end that Arendt should matter.”—Publishers Weekly

"Young-Bruehl has written a sympathetic, deeply versed, yet highly accessible guide. . . . This is a useful, admirably fluent guide to Arendt’s thought."—Sarah Kerr, BookForum

"Offers valuable lessons on how to think with and beyond Hannah Arendt."—Cara O'Connor, Shofar

"A fine overview of Arendt's thinking. The work is clearly written and applies to Arendt's insights into present day situations."—James M. King, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

"The work as a whole is . . . of very high quality and admirably suited for use in undergraduate courses in political science and or in the humanites or by university teachers needing a concise and learned discussion of Arendt's significance."—Robert Pirro, Southern Humanities Review

“A stunning and important work. . . . A terrific achievement. This volume makes very clear why Hannah Arendt matters today.”—Jerome Kohn, director, Hannah Arendt Center, New School for Social Research

“Young-Bruehl repeatedly and successfully unpacks Arendt’s views of such concepts as action, power, forgiveness, judgment, radical evil, revolution, and the human condition itself.”—Carlin Romano, Chronicle of Higher Education

Selected as "The Best of the Best of the University Presses: Books You Should Know About" by the
Association of American University Presses (AAUP)

Selected as a 2007 "Outstanding" book by AAUP University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries 

Finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award sponsored by the Society for the Study of Social Problems
ISBN: 9780300136197
Publication Date: July 14, 2009
240 pages, 4 15/16 x 7 1/2
1 b&w illus.
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