Publication of Arendt's The Modern Challenge to Tradition
The first volume of the Complete Works of Hannah Arendt, The Modern Challenge to Tradition: Fragmente eines Buchs, edited by Barbara Hahn and James McFarland, has been published.
The volume makes available in a philologically secure edition the fragmentary remains of Arendt’s work on political theory in the period between late 1952 and mid-1954, after she had published (in 1951) The Origins of Totalitarianism, and before her major works, The Human Condition, On Revolution, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and The Life of the Mind (among other writings) would appear in later years. This roughly 20-month stretch of time thus represents one of the most vital and productive periods in Arendt’s intellectual life, when, having addressed the nineteenth-century origins of the totalitarian catastrophes of our era, she broadened and deepened her frame of reference to include the entire Western tradition of political thinking from Plato to her contemporaries, and began to articulate her mature philosophical positions. Throughout this time, Arendt was laboring intensively on a planned book that was initially to be an analysis of the Marxist background of Stalinist totalitarianism but that soon expanded into a deconstruction of Western political thought. Arendt also delivered several lecture series at American universities and continued to publish essays in prominent American journals. It was this book, reconceived and reworked throughout these months but never completed, that formed the organizing framework for Arendt’s scholarly and theoretical efforts at this time. The volume does not attempt to “complete” this virtual book, but documents the contributions to it that survive in Arendt’s archive, in order to profile the development of her thinking through this crucial stage in her intellectual career.
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