Out Of Darkness, Light: Arendt's Cautionary And Constructive Political Theories

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European Journal Of Political Theory


Most scholarly interpretations of Hannah Arendt's political writings account for her idiosyncratic understanding of politics and freedom in one of two ways. They interpret Arendt's more sensational claims about politics either literally or figuratively, but not in both ways. This essay proposes a new interpretation of Arendt's political writings based on a neglected, dichotomous pattern of metaphors in her collected works. That pattern, once mapped, yields insights into the meaning, applications, and limitations of Arendt's controversial political ideals and rhetoric. Neither a wholly literal nor a wholly figurative interpretation will do; I propose a reading that makes use of both strategies and gives Arendt her due while acknowledging her challenges.

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