This dissertation explores Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) and Isaiah Berlin's (1909-1997) understanding of the Western tradition of political philosophy in the light of totalitarianism in their works of the late 1940s and 1950s. The total collapse of traditional political relations and regimes in the 1930s and 1940s put the entire discipline and tradition of political philosophy in question. As Arendt and Berlin reflected on the Western tradition of political philosophy, both decided that the tradition was not just defeated by Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, it was also in a sense realized in those regimes. In exploring their ambivalent attitude toward the tradition, this dissertation aims to illuminate how Arendt and Berlin contributed to the postwar imperative to think afresh about the Western tradition of political philosophy not only to expose its originating flaws, but also to reconstruct political philosophy on decidedly anti-totalitarian premises. This dissertation engages Arendt and Berlin with respect to the topics of totalitarianism, the tradition of political philosophy, the significance of Machiavelli for post-totalitarian political theory, human plurality as a mode of engaging politics, and modern world alienation or agoraphobia and the midcentury zeitgeist of social adjustment. When read together--which political theorists as a rule almost never do--these topics emerge as important to the development of Arendt and Berlin's respective bodies of anti-totalitarian and "pluralist" political thought. What is ultimately at stake for them in seeking to understand the complicated relationship between totalitarianism and the Western tradition of political philosophy is how to proceed in political theory in a fully post-totalitarian way. In addition to bringing Arendt and Berlin together and investigating some important thematic similarities between them, my dissertation advances our knowledge of both thinkers by revealing how deeply the concepts and issues of politics, pluralism, totalitarianism, and the Western tradition of political philosophy are intertwined in their writings. Beyond Arendt and Berlin studies, this dissertation contributes to our knowledge of the endeavor to renovate or create political theory after totalitarianism and during the Cold War.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. March 2015. Major: Political Science. Advisor: Mary Dietz. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 228 pages.
Winham, Ilya P..
After totalitarianism: Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, and the realization and defeat of the Western tradition.
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