Hannah Arendt and the political : the contemporary challenges posed by sovereignty, nationalism and imperialism
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This thesis seeks to show how the reassessment of Arendt’s thought for contemporary international political theory must be grounded in her first major published work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, and, more specifically, in the concept of the political she outlines therein. The thesis begins by examining how Arendt interprets the political sui generis. It shows how this concept, which influences much of her scholarship from the 1950s onwards and serves as a critical measure against which she assesses modern-day events, is disclosed for the first time in Part II of Origins through her engagement with particular topics and phenomena related to European colonial imperialism. Using this somewhat neglected text as a point of departure, the main body of the thesis examines Arendt’s thoughts on three ‘anti-political’ impulses of the contemporary world that have clear international ramifications: sovereignty, nationalism and imperialism. The work is divided into three corresponding sections. Each contains a chapter providing an interpretive study of Arendt’s text on the subject, followed by a chapter applying the key themes, insights and dangers previously highlighted to some of the most intractable global situations today such as the international human rights regime, atomic weaponry and war, biopolitical control, genocide studies and neoliberal globalisation. In so doing, the thesis does not aim to ‘find’ in Arendt’s work determinate answers to the crises of our time, but rather to use her perceptions as critical inspiration to think about them differently.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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