Hanna Arendt

No sé si el título es el apropiado, pues no acierto a pensar qué podría añadir a lo ya escriro y hablado en los últimos meses. Así que me limitaré a mencionarles las novedades de la London Review of Books.

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No resumiré los contenidos, pues ustedes mismos pueden ojearlos con un simple click: 

 Contents
Articles online from Vol. 29, No, 1
Cover date 4 january 2007 

Uno de esos artículos lleva por título Dragon-Slayers y está escrito por Corey Robin, profesor de ciencia política en el Brooklyn College y en el Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Además, es autor de  Fear: The History of a Political Idea (galardonado con el Best First Book in Political Theory Award de la American Political Science Association). El texto puede resultar polémico, pues sostiene que “if Arendt matters today, it is because of her writings on imperialism, Zionism and careerism”, sin olvidar  su concepto de banalización del mal y su crítica de toda lógica pragmática que desatienda el sentido y las consecuencias de la acción humana.

En cualquier caso, Corey Robin repasa tres volúmenes recientes sobre la pensadora alemana:

“Last year marked the centenary of Hannah Arendt’s birth. From Slovenia to Waco, conferences, readings and exhibitions were convened in her honour. This month, Schocken Books is issuing a new collection of her writings, its fifth publication of her work in four years. Penguin has reissued On Revolution, Eichmann in Jerusalem and Between Past and Future. And Yale has inaugurated a new series, ‘Why X Matters’, with Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s Why Arendt Matters”

Cabe destacar, pues, sobre todo  Why Arendt Matters (Yale, 2006), de  Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.  Recordemos que ésta fue alumna de doctorado de Arendt en los años 70 y que escribió su biografía en 1982, recién reeditada entre nosotros. En esta ocasión, revisa sus obras más importantes y analiza las ideas fundamentales.  Young-Bruehl considera que su análisis del totalitarismo nazi y estalinista  aún tiene cosas que enseñar  en nuestra época, así como su comprensión revolucionariua de la acción política, que podemos conectar con la idea de perdón y con las promesas futuras. Asimismo, reflexiona sobre  The Life of the Mind (La vida del espíritu), su meditación inacabada sobre cómo pensar acerca del pensamiento. En fin, una presentación para lectores del siglo XXI. 

Como quiera que este último año se han editado entre nosotros diversas obras sobre esta autora, les recomiendo que no pierdan la ocasión y que lean, pero sobre todo que la lean.

De momento, vean cómo termina Corey Robin su análisis:

“Many people believe that great crimes come from terrible ideas: Marxism, racism and Islamic fundamentalism gave us the Gulag, Auschwitz and 9/11. It was the singular achievement of Eichmann in Jerusalem, however, to remind us that the worst atrocities often arise from the simplest of vices. And few vices, in Arendt’s mind, were more vicious than careerism. ‘The East is a career,’ Disraeli wrote. And so was the Holocaust, according to Arendt. ‘What for Eichmann was a job, with its daily routine, its ups and downs, was for the Jews quite literally the end of the world.’ Genocide, she insisted, is work. If it is to be done, people must be hired and paid; if it is to be done well, they must be supervised and promoted.

Eichmann was a careerist of the first order. He had ‘no motives at all’, Arendt insisted, ‘except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement’. He joined the Nazis because he saw in them an opportunity to ‘start from scratch and still make a career’, and ‘what he fervently believed in up to the end was success.’ Late in the war, as Nazi leaders brooded in Berlin over their impending fate and that of Germany, Eichmann was fretting over superiors’ refusing to invite him to lunch. Years later, he had no memory of the Wannsee Conference, but clearly remembered bowling with senior officials in Slovakia.

This aspect of Arendt’s treatment of Eichmann is often overlooked in favour of her account of the bureaucrat, the thoughtless follower of rules who could cite the letter of Kant’s categorical imperative without apprehending its spirit. The bureaucrat is a passive instrument, the careerist an architect of his own advance. The first loses himself in paper, the second hoists himself up a ladder. The first was how Eichmann saw himself; the second is how Arendt insisted he be seen.

Most modern theorists, from Montesquieu to the American Framers to Hayek, have considered ambition and careerism to be checks against, rather than conduits of, oppression and tyranny. Arendt’s account of totalitarianism, too, makes it difficult to see how a careerist could survive or prosper among Nazis and Stalinists. Totalitarianism, she argued, appeals to people who no longer care about their lives, much less their careers, and destroys individuals who do. It preys on the dissolution of class structures and established hierarchies – or dissolves those that remain – and replaces them with a shapeless mass movement and a bureaucracy that resembles an onion more than a pyramid.

The main reason for the contemporary evasion of Arendt’s critique of careerism, however, is that addressing it would force a confrontation with the dominant ethos of our time. In an era when capitalism is assumed to be not only efficient but also a source of freedom, the careerist seems like the agent of an easy-going tolerance and pluralism. Unlike the ideologue, whose great sin is to think too much and want too much from politics, the careerist is a genial caretaker of himself. He prefers the marketplace to the corridors of state power. He is realistic and pragmatic, not utopian or fanatic. That careerism may be as lethal as idealism, that ambition is an adjunct of barbarism, that some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas: these are the implications of Eichmann in Jerusalem that neo-cons and neoliberals alike find too troubling to acknowledge”.

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