Hannah Arendt was born in Hanover, Germany, on October 14, 1906. Born into a Russian-Jewish family, she was the only child of Paul and Martha Arendt. At age seven her father died on paresis and her mother remarried in 1920, giving Arendt two older stepsisters. In 1924 Arendt finished her secondary school studies and moved on to study Theology at the University of Marburg. During this time Martin Heidegger was also lecturing at the university, and thus began a long relationship between the two, which peaked with a brief affair which ended upon Arendt’s discovery of Heidegger’s involvement with the Nationalist Social party. While the friendship continued, Heidegger’s phenomenological method had a significant influence on Arendt’s work. Arendt went on to study the phenomenological method at the University of Heidelberg under Karl Jaspers and the two maintained a close relationship. In 1929 Arendt earned her doctorate and married her first husband, Gunther Stern. With National Socialism and anti-Semitism on the rise in Germany, Arendt was arrested in 1933 for her publications on the victims of Nazism. Escaping her prison sentence she fled to Paris and continued her political activism by helping move Jewish children from Germany to Palestine. In 1939 Arendt divorced her husband and the next year married Heinrich Blucher. That same year the two newly weds were imprisoned in separate internment centres in the South of France. Escaping her internment, she reunited with Blucher and escaped to New York in May 1941.
In 1951 Arendt published her most famous book, The Origins of Totalitarianism. It was an instant classic, charting the many uses and excuses for violence in Europe and by European imperial powers. In 1963, after publishing several other works, Arendt’s most controversial work, Eichmann in Jerusalem, was published. In it, Arendt coins the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ when describing the actions of Nazi S.S. lieutenant colonel Eichmann’s trail for the transportation of Jews to death camps. The banality of evil, then, was the concept that great evil was not carried out of some sadistic will to harm, but rather thoughtlessness. For the S.S. officer, such actions had been normalised in his view of the world, and so did not consider what he was doing ‘evil’, if he considered it at all.
Arendt died after suffering a heart attack in her New York home on December 4th 1975. Though her methods shunned the traditional empiricism associated with Anglo-American philosophy her work continues to have a profound influence on political theory.
Arendt, Hannah. The Promise of Politics. Schocken. 2007.
Arendt, Hannah. Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution. Harvest Books. 1972.
Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. Mariner Books. 1970.
Arendt, Hannah. Imperialism: Part Two Of The Origins Of Totalitarianism. Mariner Books. 1968.
Arendt, Hannah. Men in Dark Times. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1968.
Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Viking Press. 1963.
Arendt, Hannah. On Revolution. Viking Press. 1963.
Arendt, Hannah. Between Past and Future: Six Exercises in Political Thought. Viking Press. 1961.
Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. University of Chicago Press. 1958.
Arendt, Hannah. Responsibility and Judgment. Schocken. 2005.
Arendt, Hannah. Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954: Formation, Exile, and Totalitarianism. Schocken. 2005.
Arendt, Hannah. The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt. Cambridge University Press. 2001.
Arendt, Hannah and Ronald Beiner (Editor). Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. University Of Chicago Press. 1989.
Arendt, Hannah and Melvyn A. Hill (Editor). Hannah Arendt, the recovery of the public world. St. Martin’s Press. 1979.