[Marxism] [Pen-l] Hannah Arendt

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 21 16:41:06 MDT 2013

On 5/21/13 6:35 PM, Chuck Grimes wrote:
> Nice essay. It adds some detail and thoughts that make me reflect on
> Heidegger, Arendt, and Strauss. Strauss went to Heidegger's lectures and was
> interested in his ideas. The way I understand the motivation and attraction
> has to do with several themes in Strauss's life.
> Heidegger's version of existentialism has features that would have attracted
> a particular kind of student (search for meaning types). H's work forms a
> core of sorts for understanding the (alienated) individual identity in
> relation to mass society. He also links this theme with the ancient greek
> concern for metaphysics, theories of being, which have a quasi-theological
> strain. Both of these features attracted Strauss as a student. Strauss was a
> Zonist at the time and just a year or so later wrote essays for Zionist
> publications that used his exposure to Heidegger and others to the mix of
> Zionist thoughts on identity, culture, politics, etc.
> Arendt was following this road in a different way. She picked up the
> identity theme, interests in classical greek philosophy, thoughts on
> Aristotle, and the relationship of the individual to society. These would
> become central to her later political writing where the individual and
> society was transformed or formalized into the citizen and the state. The
> other aspect which Strauss ignored as if tone-deaf, was the link between
> Heidegger and the German Romantic literary reaction to the French
> Enlightenment. Strauss got the anti-enlightenment part but not the poetic
> strain.
> Arendt was almost entirely focused on the latter. In my theory, this was the
> intellectual center of Arendt's affair with Heidegger. You (plural) have to
> have some feeling for this kind of poetry, which you could call
> metaphysical. In the German romantic version, the concept of metaphysical
> takes on the trappings of a love for the natural world as a replacement of
> sorts for traditional theological thoughts. This theme was common in the
> aftermath of the French Revolution and its dominate theme of turning society
> into a machine...well in the trivial way that labels reduce.
> Anyway, these themes are difficult in film because the primary experience is
> literary and poetic. It might be handled with a walk in the woods, in
> whatever was left of the Black Forest provided the film maker knew how to do
> it... You could have them walk passed an open window where somebody was
> practicing piano, something of Beethoven or Chopin...one of quiet pieces.
> I want to add that Elizabeth Young-Bruehl did not understand this poetic
> strain in Arendt's sensibility and therefore did not understand Arendt's
> affair with Heidegger. She paints it as a psychologist would, absent its
> meaning. I really wish somebody else would do a biography of Arendt. You
> have to read and understand Heidegger as well as Jaspers. Arendt was one
> side of these relationships, which means you need to know something about
> the other half.
> A lot of the above has a baring on the Eichmann trial because it is from
> this background that you can grasp what Arendt meant by banal. Eichmann was
> a functionary and had next to zero interest or background in German culture
> and certainly not in the high levels of the history of its literature and
> philosophy. You don't need all that to be the gasman.
> Golo Mann wrote against Arendt's thesis. These writings were based on his
> own grad student days which coincided with the take over in the early
> thirties. GM objected to the idea that mere technocrats were responsible
> since many of his fellow grad students converted and took up positions in
> government. The general thrust was something along the lines of The Best and
> Brightest. This attack cost him his long time friendship with Karl Jaspers.
> We've had abject lesson after lession in what the dimensions of banality in
> power portent. Imagine for example Arnie Duncan as Secretary of Education or
> the necon clique on Iraq.
> I read Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1964 and remembered the news clips of
> Eichmann in his box from 1961...and read whatever the LA Times had to say
> about it. I thought great. One of the assholes was getting his turn. It was
> only later that I could go back over this trial and figure out what Arendt
> was doing. I've still got the book. I used part of it to understand Strauss,
> so I should go back and see. Maybe it's time for another re-read.
> As to the violation of Orwellian thought crimes and the Israel lobby, I can
> only hope they mount a campaign against this movie and recapitulate history
> as farce. It's probably too much to hope for.
> CG

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