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Hannah Arendt's analysis of antisemitism in The Origins of Totalitarianism: a critical appraisal

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Abstract:

Hannah Arendt's seminal work The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with an extended study of the history of antisemitism. Many of Arendt's arguments in this groundbreaking text have been challenged by other scholars. Examining the chief contours of Arendt's account of the rise of modern antisemitism, Staudenmaier offers detailed reasons for approaching her conclusions sceptically while appreciating the book's other virtues. Arendt's repeated reliance on antisemitic sources, her inconsistent analysis of assimilation, her overstated distinction between social and political dimensions of anti-Jewish sentiment, and her emphasis on partial Jewish responsibility for antisemitism indicate fundamental problems with her interpretation of the historical record. A thorough critical appraisal of Arendt's argument offers an opportunity for both her admirers and her detractors to come to terms concretely with the contradictory aspects of her historical legacy.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; Jews; The Origins of Totalitarianism; antisemitism; assimilation; history

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2012.672224

Publication date: 2012-05-01

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