HANNAH ARENDT: The Recovery of the Public Worm by Melvyn--Ed. Hill

HANNAH ARENDT: The Recovery of the Public Worm

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the four years since her death, Arendt's reputation has grown considerably, helped along by the posthumous publication of The Life of the Mind, her most traditionally philosophical work. But it is as a political theorist that Arendt was most outstanding, and it is her great achievements in that field that the 13 essays in this volume address. Though profound, most of Arendt's major works are not particularly difficult, so that the best writing on Arendt has directly engaged her ideas rather than trying to restate them. Here, unfortunately, after a biographic piece by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (Wesleyan), most of the essays take the exegetic route to nowhere. Bikhu Parekh (Hull, England) castigates Arendt for underestimating Marx while Mildred Bakan (York, Toronto) terms Arendt's critique of Marx ""devastating""--a difference in interpretation that originates in the interpreters and for which Arendt is merely a foil. Similarly, Bernard Crick (London) goes over The Origins of Totalitarianism again to prod us into political action, and Peter Fuss (Missouri) reviews The Human Condition only to find Arendt too combative for his liking. Most of the other essays pursue more philosophical themes without taking any chances; but, happily, James Miller (Texas), contributes a critical and constructive essay on the conditions for freedom in modernity which grapples with some unresolved problems in Arendt's political thought--like her rigid separation between ""the social"" and ""the political,"" for one. The volume includes a bibliography of Arendt's writings and the transcript of a 1972 exchange between Arendt and other theorists--C. B. Macpherson, Hans Morgenthau, and Mary McCarthy among them--which at least presents Arendt at her provocative best. Arendt thought of her work as ""tentative,"" but there's little of that questioning spirit here.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1979
Publisher: St. Martin's