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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blob, blob, blob....

For decades (gosh, I am actually old enough to say that) I have been fascinated by the work and ideas of Hannah Arendt. The fascination extended to wanting to honor her brilliance in some way, and I came close when putting the name "Hannah" forward when my wife and I were considering names for our first child in 1970 (the first name was to start with an "H", and we named her Heather instead, following the fad of the day I'm afraid; but what really undermined my effort was a wise crack I made about about a possible middle name -- Lulu)....

Over the years I have made an effort to read just about everything Arendt wrote, and her influence on my thinking shows through most clearly in some recent publications (e.g., here). I've also collected a number of books about Arendt, hoping that someday I will actually get around to reading them and learning more about her life and ideas.

So I was a bit panicked when I saw that several of those books had been damaged in the Mother's Day flood that hit the Boston and Northshore areas. It looks like at least two are in good enough shape to read -- although each time I open them I think the binding will fall off.

Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. 1998. THE ATTACK OF THE BLOB: HANNAH ARENDT'S CONCEPT OF THE SOCIAL. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Despite the title of the book (which probably gets it some shelf space along side those "Philosophy According to Seinfeld" -- or is that the Simpsons - books), Pitkin is a first rate theorist in her own right, and here she scrutinizes Arendt's view of modern society -- or, more directly, her concern about the dominance of the "social" which is preempting political life. The reference to The Blob, of course, was metaphorical as Arendt saw the "social" swallowing all political life in its path.... (I somehow can imagine Arendt going to the movies in the 1950s to see the flick that turned out to be Steve McQueen's debut...)

Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth. 1982. HANNAH ARENDT: FOR LOVE OF THE WORLD. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. This is a substantial volume that I have cracked several times, but have yet to make progress with. It is, of course, a biography of Arendt and focuses on her circle of friends and their influence on her work. I find it interesting that she was so dependent on her strong social relationships to keep her political tracts coming out. It seems that the blob can do good as well as evil....

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