Totalitarianism, a reality defying comprehension Lecture Series Thinker of the century. Hannah Arendt: 1906-1975

Totalitarianism, a reality defying comprehension

  1. The event took place on
Fina Birulés


  1. Fina BirulésFina Birulés

    Profesora de Filosofía de la Universidad de Barcelona. Desde 1990 coordina el seminario "Filosofia i Gènere" de la misma universidad y en la actualidad es miembro de la dirección del futuro Instituto Interuniversitario de Estudios de Género de Cataluña (IIEDG, L´Institut Interuniversitari d´Estudis de Dones i Gènere). Autora de numerosos artículos y ensayos, entre ellos "Geografia de lombra i de la llum: Hannah Arendt", "Del sujeto a la subjetividad", "Entre la inocencia y la acción ¿Responsabilidad política femenina?" y "Feminismo y política. Entre la igualdad y la libertad". Ha editado diversos volúmenes colectivos: Filosofía y género, El género de la memoria, En torno a Hannah Arendt (con Manuel Cruz) y Hannah Arendt, el orgullo de pensar. Ha traducido e introducido textos de Arthur Danto, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Charles Taylor y especialmente de Hannah Arendt (De la historia a la acción, ¿Qué es la política?, La vida del espíritu, Una revisión de la historia judía y otros ensayos Diario Filosófico).

Humans are living beings that, in opposition to other animals, do not need to agree with what has been given to them and are capable of transforming it; facing the predation process of nature, they build a world of civilization, a world that survives them and provides a stable space to inhabit. When Hannah Arendt highlighted this human capacity of transforming what has been given to him, he was not only referring to the history of the homo faber, but was also wanted to highlight the artificial nature of politics, as from his point of view and in opposition to a long tradition of political philosophy, not all kind of human coexistence is policy. As a matter of fact, the experience of the concentration and extermination camps in the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century had proved that this human specificity has nothing of natural, inevitable, nor irreversible. Policy is not a need of human nature, but a only a possibility that can be occasionally accomplished. The aim of policy is precisely linked to being worried for the world (amor mundi), to the gestures aimed at stabilizing the cohabitation of mortal beings within a plural community. Arendt understands the political community in terms of distance, not proximity nor fusion: distance is a figure of the community, or as she says, "community is what relates men in the mode of the differences that they have" (b9).

If we cease to consider, as we usually do, that the core of Arendt's thought is the defense of a participative democracy and the conception of actions just how it is presented in The Human Condition, we will notice that from her efforts to separate the elements of totalitarian governments, a sort of reflective plot appears for the "dark times". A plot much more complex, difficult to catalogue, and interwoven with considerations that are not always easy to admit when thinking about a figure in which we find a "variation of radicalism" that is not especially likable, due to "not being contaminated by the materialism, leninism, or historicism" (b2). From the confrontation with the totalitarian experiences, Arendt extracts an analysis where she admits the terrible truth of what happened and its radical and tragic originality. This is, she seriously asumes the rupture that the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century cause, and checking her reflexions and reading her posterior works, her programme can be visualized. A programme that can be presented using the words of Tocqueville: "A new world needs a new political science" (b3).

The central categories and problems that the arendtian thinking has, are greatly due to the semi-hidden plot that develops from the long effort of processing the totalitarian phenomenon. Many of its original topics can be read as inverted pictures from the concepts presented in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

b9. Esposito, Roberto, Communitas. Origen y destino de la comunidad, Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 2003, pp. 137-.
b2 CANOVAN, Margaret, "Hannah Arendt como pensadora conservadora" en BIRULÉS, Fina (comp.), Hannah Arendt. El orgullo de pensar,Barcelona, Gedisa, 2000, p. 52.
b3 La democracia en América, Introducción, Madrid, Alianza, 1995, p.13.