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Between Past and Future [Paperback]

Hannah Arendt , Jerome Kohn
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 26 2006 Penguin Classics
Arendt describes the loss of meaning of the traditional key words of politics: justice, reason, responsibility, virtue, glory. Through a series of eight exercises, she shows how we can redistill once more the vital essence of these concepts.

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About the Author

Hannnah Arendt (1906-1975) was for many years University Professor of Political Philosophy in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research and a Visiting Fellow of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She is also the author of Eichmann in Jerusalem, On Revolution, and Between Past and Future (all available from Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics).

Jerome Kohn is the director of the Hannah Arendt Center at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Notice inside the parenthesis next to the title it says (20th century classics). That's because this work belongs to that rank. I first read this book back when I was in grad school, and have used it as a reference ever since. If a 'classic' -- if we may dare use such a term still -- is something akin to a great poem as Ezra Pound defined it, "News that stays new", then this work is a classic. Arendt must have been a great teacher as well as a thinker. These essays read like lectures: Lectures given by a caring professor who actually gives a damn about getting through to her audience. Yes, some Greek and Latin here and there, but with Arendt as your guide you cannot get lost if you pay attention. The subtitle of the book is Eight Exercises in Political Thought, and Arendt, in her grand style, deals with the big topics -- Freedom, Authority, Power, Tradition, etc -- that ground everything else in civic life. The sheer pleasure to be had in encountering the density of her scholarship is found not only in her crystal clear prose, but also in her mastery of the foundational concepts and experience, Roman and Greek, that shape, willy nilly, the warpature within the space of our civic and political discourse even today. However, in her presentation of the trajectory of tradition, she also shows exactly where and how the displacement of tradition occurred. In the opening lines of her essay 'What is Authority?', she asks whether we ought not instead be asking 'What WAS Authority?', making clear from the get go that the notion of Authority has undergone an irreversible transformation since the Roman conception. And then she goes on to explain how that change occurred and in what way, with what chain of consequences. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just as was expected from Arendt--sheer genius! Jan. 9 2001
The last reviewer is correct in the sense that Arendt is an incredibly intelligent writer, it is wrong to judge the book on other works of Arendt. I believe this book demonstrates and explains the close, yet, strangely obscure ties between past occurences and ideas and those of the present. Arendt really puts the true meaning of historical study into place when she places it in all three tenses: past, present, and future. For those of you unacquainted with the writings of Hannah Arendt, I will gladly tell you that no one I have ever read has the observation and mental-leaps that Arendt gave us through her writings. The back of the book says something to the effect that Arendt exposed what is usually passed off as genius as a tired process still running its course. As cliche as remarks on the back of books go, this one so happens to describe her talent perfectly. Arendt shows us that there is very little that is original. Many things really depend on past observations and actions. She also shows us that little has changed since ancient times, in some of our most fundamental system of thinking. I am disappointed that the previous Arendt-reader was not impressed with the book. I have owned it for about five months now, and I still find myself picking back through the explanations and exercises that Arendt gave us. This really is a must have for anyone who reads Hannah Arendt, or anyone who finds themselves between past and future.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I expected more from Arendt April 6 1999
Though Arendt is one of my favorite political theorists, this compilation left me dissapointed. Though her insights on Truth, Justice and Authority are well argued, she makes very few of the observations that made me love her works. The best chapter in the book is the 7th, a defense of her work Eichmann in Jeruselum (though she does not explicitly mention it) where she discusses the nature of Truth and its role it the telling of history. As usual of course, a knowledge of Greek and Latin is helpful with Arendt (which I don't have) as the text is full of foreign words.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Between truth and genius July 14 2004
Very few political theorists have the reach and thought of Hannah Arendt. I read her works first by requirement, then with joy. Between Past and Future articulates and solidifies my own thoughts on politics, particularly the observations in "What is Freedom?" on courage and action. A must read for anyone seriously thinking about political theory or a career in civil service.
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