Richard H. King
Arendt and America
University of Chicago 2015
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Jewish StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network November 8, 2015 Lillian Calles Barger
Richard H. King is Emeritus Professor of American and Canadian Studies at The University of Nottingham. His book Arendt and America (University of Chicago, 2015) is an intellectual biography and transnational synthesis of ideas and explores how the German-Jewish exile and political thinker Hannah Arendt’s American experience shaped her thought as she sought an alternative to totalitarianism. Her books The Human Condition, The Origins of Totalitarianism, and On Revolution display the marks of her engagement with the American Republic of the Founders and the possibilities of its survival under the threat of mass society. King examines her corpus as she engaged with the diversity of thought from the Western political tradition to mid-century America allowing us to see the range of her ideas. Her interests were neither social nor cultural, but the political sphere. In Cold War America, she became part of a moral center of the New York intellectuals and forged relationships with people such David Reisman, Dwight MacDonald, Irving Howe, and Mary McCarthy. Arendt expressed a continual concern with the nature of political action, the possibility of new beginnings and the idea of the “banality of evil,” introduced in the controversial 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Difficult to categorize ideologically, Arendt sought a “worldly” politic, rather than politics based in idealism or pragmatism. Her thought influenced post-war thinking on political participation, civil disobedience, race, the Holocaust and the meaning of republicanism and liberalism. King has given us a portrait of a complex, and often ironic, relationship of a seminal thinker with America as a place and a set of ideas and institutions.