HANNAH ARENDT QUOTES

German-American political theorist (1906-1975)

Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

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Love, by reason of its passion, destroys the in-between which relates us to and separates us from others. As long as its spell lasts, the only in-between which can insert itself between two lovers is the child, love's own product. The child, this in-between, to which the lovers now are related and which they hold in common, is representative of the world in that it also separates them; it is an indication that they will insert a new world into the existing world. Through the child, it is as though the lovers return to the world from which their love had expelled them. But this new worldliness, the possible result and the only possibly happy ending of a love affair, is, in a sense, the end of love, which must either overcome the partners anew or be transformed into another mode of belonging together.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Human Condition

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Tags: children, love


The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

HANNAH ARENDT, The New Yorker, Sep. 12, 1970

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Tags: conservatives


When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.

HANNAH ARENDT, Crises of the Republic

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Tags: guilt


Total loyalty is possible only when fidelity is emptied of all concrete content, from which changes of mind might naturally arise.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

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Tags: loyalty


Action without a name, a "who" attached to it, is meaningless.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Human Condition

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Tags: action


Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

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Tags: totalitarianism


The role played by education in all political utopias from ancient times onward shows how natural it seems to start a new world with those who are by birth and nature new. So far as politics is concerned, this involves of course a serious misconception: instead of joining with one's equals in assuming the effort of persuasion and running the risk of failure, there is dictatorial intervention, based upon the absolute superiority of the adult, and the attempt to produce the new as a fait accompli, that is, as though the new already existed.

HANNAH ARENDT, Between Past and Future

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Tags: utopia


When we think of a criminal, we imagine someone with criminal motives. And when we look at Eichmann, he doesn't actually have any criminal motives. Not what is usually understood by "criminal motives." He wanted to go along with the rest. He wanted to say "we," and going-along-with-the-rest and wanting-to-say-we like this were quite enough to make the greatest of all crimes possible. The Hitlers, after all, really aren't the ones who are typical in this kind of situation--they'd be powerless without the support of others.

HANNAH ARENDT, interview, SWR TV, Das Thema, Nov. 9, 1964

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It is true that storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it, that it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are, and that we may even trust it to contain eventually by implication that last word which we expect from the "day of judgment."

HANNAH ARENDT, Men in Dark Times

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The monstrous sameness and pervasive ugliness so highly characteristic of the findings of modern psychology, and contrasting so obviously with the enormous variety and richness of overt human conduct, witness to the radical difference between the inside and the outside of the human body.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Life of the Mind

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Since one cannot educate adults, the word "education" has an evil sound in politics; there is a pretense of education, when the real purpose is coercion without the use of force.

HANNAH ARENDT, Between Past and Future

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A functionary, when he really is nothing more than a functionary, is really a very dangerous gentleman.

HANNAH ARENDT, interview, SWR TV, Das Thema, Nov. 9, 1964

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Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.

HANNAH ARENDT, "The Crisis in Education"

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Tags: education


In politics, love is a stranger, and when it intrudes upon it nothing is being achieved except hypocrisy.

HANNAH ARENDT, letter to James Baldwin, Nov. 21, 1962

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Totalitarianism strives not toward despotic rule over men, but toward a system in which men are superfluous. Total power can be achieved and safeguarded only in a world of conditioned reflexes, of marionettes.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

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Tags: totalitarianism


When we were told that by freedom we understood free enterprise, we did very little to dispel this monstrous falsehood, and all too often we have acted as though we too believed that it was wealth and abundance which were at stake in the postwar conflict between the "revolutionary" countries in the East and the West. Wealth and economic well-being, we have asserted, are the fruits of freedom, while we should have been the first to know that this kind of "happiness" was the blessing of America prior to the Revolution, and that its cause was natural abundance under "mild government," and neither political freedom nor the unchained, unbridled "private initiative" of capitalism, which in the absence of natural wealth has led everywhere to unhappiness and mass poverty. Free enterprise, in other words, has been an unmixed blessing only in America, and it is a minor blessing compared with the truly political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and thought, of assembly and association, even under the best conditions.

HANNAH ARENDT, On Revolution

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Tags: capitalism


Well, demonization itself can help ... to provide an alibi. You succumb to the Devil incarnate, and as a result you're not guilty yourself.

HANNAH ARENDT, interview, SWR TV, Das Thema, Nov. 9, 1964

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Tags: devil


Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history.

HANNAH ARENDT, attributed, Aspects of Love: An Exploration of 1 Corinthians 13

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The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense they took away the individual's own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

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Tags: Holocaust