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Crises da República por Hannah Arendt
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Crises da República (original 1970; edição 1972)

por Hannah Arendt (Autor)

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A collection of studies in which Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early 1970s as challenges to the american form of government. Index.
Título:Crises da República
Autores:Hannah Arendt (Autor)
Colecções:Miguel Baldez

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Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution por Hannah Arendt (1970)

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A collection of studies in which Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early 1970s as challenges to the american form of government.
  GalenWiley | Apr 14, 2015 |
In this stimulating collection of studies -three new to book form ant the noted essay "On Violence"- Dr. Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early '70s as challenges to the American form of government. ( )
  coronacopado | Aug 13, 2011 |
The review refers to the 1973 Pelican edition, ISBN 0140210415.
I found this 1973 Pelican edition with its striking cover-design in a 2nd-hand bookshop on a recent visit to York. In the 70ths, British paperbacks were still published that were remarkable for their cover-design, very rare indeed now! (At times, although not often, I have bought books simply because of an outstanding cover; more frequently, I will do without a copy if the design offends my eyes). This edition collects 3 essays – Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience, On Violence – early versions of which were first published in the New Yorker and New York Review of Books 1969 to 1972 at the height of the Vietnam War, and an interview: Thoughts on Politics and Revolution dating from 1970. It is complemented by an Index.

Lying in Politics are reflections on the Pentagon Papers. These revealed, when leaked in June 1971, the deceptions and – as H.A. points out – self-deceptions, successive U.S. governments practised to hide their true policy in Vietnam. Policy? Rather a murderous folly (Barbara Tuchman) because, as H.A. says, “… American policy pursued no real aims, good or bad, that could limit and control sheer fantasy: ‘The entire purpose has been to create a specific state of mind’”, namely, to uphold “the dangerous myth of omnipotence.” What has changed since then? Successive administrations are still guided by the “godfather principle, straight out of the mafia: that defiance cannot be tolerated” (Chomsky in a 2009 interview ). Yesterday Iraq, today Afghanistan.

Civil Disobedience: H A is very precise in that possible unlawful political acts should only then be named acts of civil disobedience if directed against government policies and carried out by organised minorities (associations) that are bound together by common opinions. She sharply distinguishes acts of civil disobedience from lobby activities, that promote particular interests as well as from acts of conscientious objectors, i.e. individuals who justify their unlawful acts by appeals to ‘higher laws’. She argues further, that the right to dissent, i.e. civil disobedience is implied in the general tacit consent to government – the consensus generalis of Tocqueville – and that both represent “the spirit of American [she means: U.S.] law and the quintessence of American government”. Her conclusion: civil disobedience should be formally incorporated into U.S. law with a new constitutional amendment.
But, H A says, there is a danger which Tocqueville had already seen, namely of possible tyrannical control by means of civil disobedience greater than that possessed by government, in particular, if these groups ‘were to substitute ideological commitments for actual goals’; this danger becomes apparent in the ultra-right opposition Obama faces today.
In today’s world where big business has hijacked governments and states, civil disobedience may be the only way to save democracy (Al Gore ). Hence this essay is still timely and important. I only wish that the editors had insisted on a more concise presentation half the present length. As it is, I fear that most readers will give up after a few pages. Schade!

On Violence (1970):
The introduction (Chap.1): a wide – too wide! – historical survey of the political role of violence: technical developments (atomic weapons) limit war as the ‘final arbiter in international affairs’; think-tanks: their irrationality ‘puts to sleep our common sense’; historical reversal of war and politics: war as the basic social system; Marx: ‘not violence but the contradictions inherent in the old society brings about its end’; Sartre being unaware of contradicting Marx; the moral character of the 1968 student rebellion, their confidence and hope for change; the 1968 left between rejecting and espousing violence (brilliantly shown in Margarethe von Trotta’s film 'Die bleierne Zeit' (1981); a survey of the use of violence by students in different countries; again Sartre and Fanon on violence; and, most important, a long discussion on the notion of progress in history.

This the background to the central debate (Chap.2): What is power, what violence? The importance for any meaningful discussion of being precise in distinguishing power – strength – force – authority – violence and, in particular, understanding the relationship between power and violence: “Violence can always destroy power […] In a head-on clash between violence and power, the outcome is hardly in doubt.”(120,121; page numbers refer to this edition). But she also says: “superiority in means of violence can become helpless if confronted with [superior power]”: example Vietnam. H.A.’s central thesis: “Power and violence are opposites: where one rules absolutely, the other is absent.”(123) And: “… those who hold power and feel it slipping from their hands […] have always found it difficult to resist the temptation to substitute violence for it.” (146) On violence and terror H.A. says: “Terror is not the same as violence; it is, rather, the form of government that comes into being when violence, having destroyed all power, does not abdicate but [...] remains in full control.”(122)
Chap.3 examines roots and causes of violence which, being the opposite of power, cannot be derived from it. H.A. considers zoological behaviour studies (Portmann) fascinating but irrelevant: human ‘violence is neither beastly nor irrational’. She goes further: Nothing, she says, could be more dangerous than the biological justification of violence in traditional political thought, in particular when racial issues are involved: “Racism, as distinguished from race, is not a fact of life, but an ideology, and the deeds it leads to are not reflex actions, but deliberate acts based on pseudo-scientific theories. Violence in interracial struggle is always murderous, but it is not ‘irrational’; it is the logical and rational consequence of racism [as an] explicit ideological system.” (137) Further: “Violence […] is rational to the extent that it is effective in reaching the end that must justify it” (140). Sometimes violence is the only way of getting a hearing for moderation, in particular in today’s developed bureaucracies where nobody is left to whom one can present grievances, “in which everybody is deprived of political freedom”(141). “Neither violence nor power is a natural phenomenon […]; they belong to the political realm of human affairs whose essentially human quality is guaranteed by man’s faculty of action, the ability to begin something new.” (143).
It is interesting to note that H.A.’s understanding of terror, i.e. the all-encompassing state terror of the 3rd Reich which she herself experienced, is today (2009) overshadowed (because it is political expedient?) by the use of the term for acts of violence of ‘terrorists’ even if the persons or groups fail in spreading terror.

This essay has not lost anything of its insight and relevance although, again, it would have benefited from rigorous editing.

In the interview with Adelbert Reif: "Thoughts on Politics and Revolution" H.A. expands upon and clarifies some of the points that are raised in the 3 essays, with the talk centring on the student rebellion of 1968-70, socialism and her ideas for a better political system.

What is the relevance of these thoughts 40 years later, after the demise of the Soviet Union and global spread of neoliberal economies?

Her hope of political control of market economies: “only legal and political institutions that are independent of the economic forces […] can control and check [their] inherently monstrous potentialities” (173), this hope of implementing political control seems today even more remote despite the present economic crisis.

As to her critical but relative benign view of capitalism (her main criticism: “expropriation”, 172) and her dismissal of socialism (H.A largely equates ‘socialism’ with Soviet communism, hence criticises the lack of free speech under socialism; she also considers ‘socialism’ worse than capitalism because, “In essence, socialism has simply continued, and driven to its extreme, what capitalism began” (i.e. “expropriation”, 175-6), it may be replied from today’s point of view: What use ‘free speech’ if censorship is replaced with “anything can be said” but few bother to listen? What use ‘free speech’ if hungry, without shelter, without medical care? What chance to stop the destruction of the environment under capitalism even if brought under political control? Because growth is fundamental to any capitalist economy, it is now evident that only a regulated non-growth ‘socialist’ economy will save the future.

Regarding 1968: My own memories as a student in Munich (involved, but on the fringe) are of demonstrations against the Springer-Press (‘Volksverdummung, Volksaufhetzung’: Springer was the Rupert Murdoch of Germany in the 60th), against Nazis and Nazi-Mitläufer still in power-positions in Germany, against duplicity in politics (German government support of the Vietnam War, stationing of atomic rockets in Germany). Looking back, the dominant memory is that of a Time of Hope, the hope that we, the young generation, could change the political landscape, to clean the Augean stable of West German political institutions - not make a revolution! – not take over political power – but more humane and moral conduct in political decisions – to build a more equal society, not the present one that pretends to it but in reality serves solely the interest of the powerful. 40 years later this hope has vanished. Pity the young generation.

Despite being written 40 years ago, these essays have not lost their relevance. They are an incitement to think and – at times – to disagree. (XII-09) ( )
1 vote MeisterPfriem | Apr 4, 2010 |
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A collection of studies in which Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early 1970s as challenges to the american form of government. Index.

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