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Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, and the Social Sciences$
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Peter Baehr

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780804756501

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804756501.001.0001

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Hannah Arendt's Indictment of Social Science

Hannah Arendt's Indictment of Social Science

Chapter:
(p.10) § 1 Hannah Arendt's Indictment of Social Science
Source:
Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, and the Social Sciences
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804756501.003.0002

This chapter examines Hannah Arendt's critique of sociology. It starts by providing a summary of Arendt's theory of totalitarianism, before delineating the most common general objections that she leveled at social scientists trying to understand totalitarian phenomena. Totalitarianism is a concept rooted in the horror of modern war, revolution, terror, genocide, and, since 1945, the threat of nuclear annihilation. Arendt's theory of totalitarianism advanced three central claims. First, totalitarianism is radically new, an original development that attended Europe's economic, political, and moral ruination during and after the First World War, and which became manifest in National Socialism after 1938, and Bolshevism from 1930 to the late 1950s. A second defining feature of totalitarian formations is their conjoined shapelessness and radicalization. Third, totalitarianism comprises a peculiar combination of terror and ideology.

Keywords:   totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, terror and ideology, Bolshevism, Nazism

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