Friday, October 14, 2005

Arendt you worried?

I've been reading Hannah Arendt with some friends this week . Her work , written in the decade after the Holocaust, carefully traces the varied and subtle course of the rise of fascism from the mid-19th century, and delineating the ways that (without ever meaning to) Europe's monied classes, imperialists, and nationalists worked to bring about the rise of totalitarian governments in the 1930's.

I feel compelled repeat a few of her thoughts on power and imperialism here.

"...power left to itself can achieve nothing but more power, and violence administered for power's (and not for law's) sake turns into a destructive principle that will not stop until there is nothing left to violate.

This contradiction, inherent in all ensuing power politics, however, takes on an appearance of sense if one understands it in the context of a supposedly permanent process which has no end or aim but itself. Then the test of achievement can become meaningless and power can be thought of as the never-ending, self-feeding motor of all political action that corresponds to the legendary unending accumulation of money that begets money. The concept of unlimited expansion that alone can fulfill the hope for unlimited accumulation of capital, and brings about the aimless accumulation of power, makes the foundation of new political bodies, - which up to the rea of imperialism always had been the upshot of conquest - well-nigh impossible. I fact its logical consequence is the destruction of all living communities..."

Hannah Arendt - Origins of Totalitarianism
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