Arendt and America

Univ. of Chicago. Oct. 2015. 416p. notes. index. ISBN 9780226311494. $35. PHIL
King (U.S. intellectual history, Univ. of Nottingham, UK; Race, Culture, and the Intellectuals, 1940–1970) demonstrates that Hannah Arendt (1906–75) cannot be viewed as an exclusively European thinker. She began as a student of the quintessentially German philosophers Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers, but her arrival as an exile in America during World War II deeply affected her thinking. At first, she found adjustment to the new country difficult, and the process was not made easier by her didactic manner in conversation. Arendt soon acquired a following among American intellectuals though, with the help of friends in the Partisan Review circle. She studied American political history in detail, and King stresses her engagement with the work of Alexis de Tocqueville and her correspondence with the sociologist David Riesman. Arendt's studies of America led to some controversial works, such as her criticism of the Brown v. Board of Education decision on school desegregation and her contrast of the American and French Revolutions in On Revolution. None of her works aroused as much controversy, however, as her account of the Eichmann trial, which cost her several friendships, and King offers an especially full description of this episode. He also covers the recent revival of the debate over her views on the trial.
VERDICT Admirably brings out the American dimension of Arendt's thought and will be of interest to all students of post-World War II American and European history. It compares favorably with Richard Wolin's Heidegger's Children.
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