Hannah Arendt ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’.

Why right to ‘action’ and ‘opinion’ are more valuable as well as vulnerable than rights to ‘freedom’ and ‘thought’

In the year 1951, Hannah Arendt published the book ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’. She is attributed as one of the world’s greatest political thinkers. Many people have praised the work done by Hannah Arendt. According to Arendt’s political theory, the concepts of philosophy, society as well as politics, need to be known. Many theories have been raised concerning political theory and how they impact different societies. People should be accorded rights, based on opinions and actions. The result is that people end up suffering as they are not entitled to any freedom (Arendt, 2009.297).

This paper seeks to give an analysis on the concepts of action, thought, freedom and opinion according to Hannah Arendt.

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Analysis of the concepts of action thought, freedom and opinion according to Hannah Arendt

There are many definitions concerning the meaning of totalitarianism. Differences exist between the claims brought forward by theorists, as well as that of Arendt. Hannah makes use of an ideology that is unprecedented, through a phenomenon, which is political. Most times, answers to totalitarianism are found through the political spectrum of the twentieth century. People have not yet confirmed if there is more than one totalitarians model (Hansen, 1993. 134). This has in turn lead many people not to realize the failures, which are associated with knowing the similarities that exist. The result is that there are many implications of a political nature, as well as phenomena’s, which are often difficult to understand.

A system, which is sociopolitical, is often coherent and this is because it is a model that is known. The variations, which exist are many, thus coming up with an ideology built on the state as an image. The ideology is legitimized by a party of a single nature and it must be presided over. In turn, indoctrination and coercion have unlimited powers, that ensures that orthodoxy does not deviate. This has led to the development of Utopia, according to some theorists, and this policy is as a result of polity construction. Others believe that if immobility is frozen, there is a state of perpetuation. Modernity is affected by anxieties, thus a retreat, which is quasi-religious. In the heading of totalitarianism, there is a Nazism inclusion whereby, regimes of a communist nature exist (Levinson, 2001. 25). This means that prescriptions and diagnoses have to be found out. As a result of radical actions and political ideas, which are ambitious, totalitarianism has occurred. This is due to its diagnostic nature. In order to find a remedy for this incident, the political fever has to be reduced. Thus, it is vital to ensure that expectations of ideas and politics are lowered, in order to reduce excitement. During liberal politics, there are often blessings, which are unglamorous, often based upon economics of the free market, as well as a skeptical philosophy.

Arendt’s theory is extremely different from that of a model, which is dominant. Her theory has an element of right and left equations, thus regimes like those of Stalin and Hitler are included. The other elements, which exist in her theory, are those of ideology and coercion. She has knowledge concerning extremely vital issues. She mostly focuses on the holocaust, which took place, under the Nazi regime. There is a complete difference between the most common models, as compared to that of Arendt. It has been found out by her, the nature of totalitarians is similar to that of a hurricane. This is because it seems to destroy everything it encounters, especially if it encounters human beings. Its nature can be described as being dynamic, non-utilitarian as well as chaotic. In turn, politics exists as a result of the world, which humans exist in, as well as their nature (Kristeva, 2001a. 78).

Most times, ideals such as abstract and law are not sufficient enough, in matters related to human rights. This is because the thoughts can change at any time despite there being a law, which is written. Also, lesser rights are accorded to minorities and this is applicable to the state, which they reside in. There are people who do not have any kind of law, thus not entitled to any right. Arendt believes that it is necessary to ensure that people have human rights in what is known as ‘right to have rights’. This means that a government is meant to protect and ensure that its citizens are awarded their rights. There are many reasons, which explain why ideals of abstract and law cannot entitle everyone to human rights (Kristeva, 2001a. 79). This is because people who are stateless, are not entitled to any human rights, despite there being borders, which act as barriers. Polices do not have a role to play in this key matter. Arendt goes on further to comment that laws, which have been written down, offer no rights to human beings. Rights, which are accorded to human beings, are meant to be inalienable’. This is the reason why such laws have never been written down by any government. It seems that existing laws are as result of laws, which had existed before.

The freedom realms, as well the political one, have been identified by Arendt .According to her, it is better to use persuasion and words, as compared to violence and force. This is because they are all related as equals of the sphere. Human beings have the right to be free as well as to respect laws of those in power. They can rule others or be ruled, as either is accepted. This notion is essential in knowing how the political realm functions as well as the dignity involved in reclamation. The political theory is extremely essential to Arendt as it provides a means of knowing a philosophy, which is political (Kristeva, 2001a.85).

There needs to be a political environment, which exists, due to a society. This has been brought about by a substituting and it is unconscious. This should take the form of clarity by making it become as spectacular as ever. According to Arendt, liberty is not achieved by liberals after they have fought to achieve what they need. She comments further that such actions are not genuine, but only done for self-interest purposes. She gives an example of when freedom is promoted by the lifestyles of people, which is always diverse. This has in turn increased the level of tolerance and this is because individuality is reduced. The latter is not able to exist in such an environment (Kristeva, 2001b. 212). Those who want to ensure that their individuality is retained, must look for dwellings where they can be alone without any interference. Liberty is thus given a negative view by her, whereby, the freedom is denoted by its own essence. The connection between moral liberation and laisser-faire is brought about by the existing symmetry. The forms of freedom, which exist, are experienced in the society, as well as the government.  Most theorists have viewed this concept as being extremely defective, as it does not have many reasons for its existence.

Arendt argues that when there is the presence of refrains, freedom exists. There needs to be provision of liberalism, which is through passive support. The notion of freedom is due to thought mindedness, and also, as a result of the existing life of the public, which is disquiet. People tend to behave well when there are in their natural environments. Arendt is a firm believer of enthusiasm, when it comes to matters concerning individuality. Other times, the existence of the mass society is threatened by the concerns, which are in relation to liberalism (Kristeva, 2001b. 215). There is no notion of liberty, which can be a counterfeit. When people are left alone, freedom cannot exist, but only if other people exist. This is despite there being judgment and criticism, whether it is harsh or not. This means that in every society, people’s individuality should flourish. The reason for this is that politics brings about freedom through the existing notions.  The preposition of ideas occurs to everyone, who is looking for freedom. Arendt believes that through activities, which are non-political, society is given a free scope to live in.

According to Arendt’s concept of freedom, there should not be any interference. Instead, there should be necessity, which is brought about by biological reasons. She seems to concur with Aristotle on many vital matters. For example, in order to attain independence fully, there must be a need for freedom. This freedom should be derived through abstaining from relationships as well as life’s necessitates. The thoughts regarding liberalism are accorded different meanings.  Most people believe that there is a need for interdependence through the existing frameworks of society (Kristeva, 2000. 32). The question of political freedom is raised as a result of the existing thought and Arendt seems to believe about the credibility of this matter. Political achievement is an extremely important matter, which should be sought after, by a countries citizen. People’s interest should be viewed all the time as it has the ability of bringing about many advantages. In some cases, it might have a negative effect such as making people engage in acts of corruption.

In order for freedom to exist, certain conditions must prevail according to Arendt. This is due to necessity, which is of a biological nature. However, this condition is not extremely necessary. It only ensures that people have an idea about what is taking place.  Biological necessity is made possible as a result of conscience, which is bovine. People are able to attain freedom after they have displayed certain actions. Without any action being exercised, the thought of freedom cannot exist. In accordance with Arendt’s labor concept, through action, it is possible to find a way, which is distinctive as well as fundamental. The most essential aspect of action is that it ensures that discovery and disclosure occurs. Also, freedom is achieved through action, thus makes way for uniqueness and individuality. The concept of freedom, which Arendt has, is that every human being is entitled to it. People have the ability of rising beyond any form of necessity. Individuality is often threatened by claims of liberalism as well as assertions, which are normally made. Furthermore, Arendt believes that for freedom to be experienced, it is essential that restraints exist. People must be willing to give up something in order to obtain something else (Kristeva, 2000.40).

Human action is determined by their behavior, known as opinion, which is due to the mass conformity phenomenon. Arendt believes that problems arise as a result of behaviorism theories and most times tend to be true. In societies which are modern, conceptualization occurs and this is the best solution in attaining freedom. She believes that behavior and action are extremely different in many ways (Plato, 2000. 15). It is not possible to know the thoughts of human beings since most times, they are unpredictable. Impossible things are normally done by humans as this is the behavior, which they are used to. It is only through death that the toiling cycle is reduced. This has to be repeated until death occurs (Villa, 2000. 15).

The argument on behavior is acknowledged by Arendt as it is through scientific understanding that freedom occurs. There is no point in time, when there will be dissolution of freedom, even if people decide to hide away from their inner self. The outside world is ruled by the casual principle, which exists, concerning attention. There is an affinity, which people have concerning actions, as well as its accounts and this is brought about by behaviorism. The environment, which people live in, is responsible for shaping their behavior (Walsh, 2003. 92).

In assessing modernity, Arendt believes that through modernity, society becomes extremely beneficial. She restricts any form of social characterization, as according to her, there is a realm, which is social.  This is in terms of material necessity, biological, as well as labor. When an economy expands, it coincides with social rises. The conclusion she makes is that power structure is responsible for ensuring that a capitalist economy, which is modern, exists. People’s opinions are responsible for the latter. This is in relation to rewards as well as costs. She believes that in order for action to occur, there must be speech, as without it, there is no meaning. In order to bring about characterization, speech and action are extremely important. Most times, people’s actions are as a result of opinions, which are not thought of. There is a need to ensure that new realities are created as well as relations established. In every political economy, opinion is extremely essential as it affects almost every aspect. Opinion does not change easily as it has elements of reliability, measurability and unchangebility. When people unite, they obtain the ability of becoming powerful as opposed to when they are not in harmony (Aschheim, 2001. 45).


In conclusion, the political theories by Arendt are extremely important, as they have a lot of meaning. The concepts of opinion and action are more vital as compared to that of thought and freedom. This is because people cannot acquire freedom if they do not display any action, which is derived from existing opinion. Thoughts of an unconscious nature make it possible for people to rise up to vital issues. Indeed, opinion and action is more important than thought and freedom.





Work cited

Kristeva, J. Crisis of the European Subject, New York: Other Press, 2000.Print. (Translated by Susan Fairfield with an introduction by Samir Dayal).

Kristeva, J. Hannah Arendt, New York: Columbia University Press, 2001a. Print. (Translated by Ross Guberman).

Kristeva, J. Hannah Arendt: Life is a Narrative, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001b. Print. (Translated by Frank Collins).

Plato. The Republic (Edited by G.R.F Ferrari, translated by Tom Griffith) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.Print.

Villa, D .Introduction: the development of Arendt’s political thought”, the

Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Ed 2000. Print.  Pp.1-21.

Walsh, M. Introducing Political Theory, London: Sage Publications, 2003.Print.

Aschheim, S. ed. Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem. Berkeley: University of California, 2001.Print.

Levinson, N. The Paradox of Natality: Teaching in the Midst of Belatedness, in Mordechai,

G., Hannah Arendt and Education. Renewing our Common World, Westview, Colorado, 2001.Print.  p. 11-36

Arendt Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Benediction Books, 2009. Print.

Hansen, P. Hannah Arendt: Politics, History and Citizenship, California: Stanford University

Press, 1993. Print.





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