For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

References for Theme: The Origins of Totalitarianism [1951]

  • Arendt, Hannah
    • "The Origins of Totalitarianism: A Reply" (1953)
      (p.78) Let us suppose - to take one among many possible examples -that the historian is confronted with excessive poverty in a society of great wealth, such-as the poverty of the British working classes during the early stages of the industrial revolution. The natural human reaction to such conditions is one of anger and indignation because these conditions are against the dignity of man. If I describe these conditions without permitting my indignation to interfere, I have lifted this particular phenomenon out of its context in human society and have thereby robbed it of part of its nature, deprived it of...
    • "The Origins of Totalitarianism: A Reply" (1953)
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.113) At last Clemenceau convinced Jaures that an infringement of the rights of one man was an infringement of the rights of all. But in this he was successful only because the wrongdoers happened to be the inveterate enemies of the people ever since the Revolution, namely, the aristocracy and the clergy. It was against the rich and the clergy, not for the republic, not for justice and freedom that the workers finally took to the streets. True, both the speeches of Jaures and the articles of Clemenceau are redolent of the old revolutionary passion for human rights. True, also, that...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.194) The poor whites in South Africa, who in 1923 formed 10 per cent of the total white population and whose standard of living does not differ much from that of the Bantu tribes, are today a  warning example of this possibility. Their poverty is almost exclusively the consequence of their contempt for work and their adjustment to the way of life of black tribes. Like the blacks, they deserted the soil if the most primitive cultivation no longer yielded the little that was necessary or if  they had exterminated the animals of the region. Together with their former slaves, they...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.297) Only with a completely organized humanity could the loss of home and political status become identical with expulsion from humanity altogether. Before this, what we must call a "human right" today would have been thought of as a  general characteristic of the human condition which no tyrant could take away. Its loss entails the loss of the relevance of speech (and man, since Aristotle, has. been defined as a  being commanding the power of speech and thought), and the loss of all human relationship (and man, again since Aristotle, has been thought of as the "political animal," that is one...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.328) The elite went to war with an exultant hope that everything they knew, the whole culture and texture of life, might go down in its "storms of steel" (Ernst Junger). In the carefully chosen words of Thomas Mann, war was "chastisement" and "purification"; "war in itself, rather than victories, inspired the poet." Or in the words of a  student of the time, "what counts is always the readiness to make a sacrifice, not the object for which the sacrifice is made"; or in the words of a  young worker, "it doesn't matter whether one lives a few years longer or...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.34) That the Jew, Karl Marx, could write the same way these anti-Jewish radicals did is only proof of how little this kind of anti-Jewish argument had in common with full-fledged antisemitism. Marx as an individual Jew was as little embarrassed by these arguments against "Jewry" as, for instance, Nietzsche was by his arguments against Germany. Marx, it is true, in his later years never wrote or uttered an opinion on the Jewish question; but this is hardly due to any fundamental change of mind. His exclusive preoccupation with class struggle as a  phenomenon inside society, with the problems of capitalist...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.357) The same ingenious application of slogans, coined by others and tried out before, was apparent in the Nazis' treatment of other relevant issues. When public attention was equally focused on nationalism on one hand and socialism on the other, when the two were thought to be incompatible and actually constituted the ideological watershed between the Right and the Left, the "National Socialist German Workers' Party" (Nazi) offered a synthesis supposed to lead to national unity, a semantic solution whose double trademark of "German" and "Worker" connected the nationalism of the Right with the internationalism of the Left. The very name...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.361) To a certain extent, the Volksgemeinschaft was the Nazis' attempt to counter the Communist promise of a  classless society. The propaganda appeal of the one over the other seems obvious if we disregard all ideological implications. While both promised to level all social and property differences, the classless society had the obvious connotation that everybody would be leveled to the status of a  factory worker, while the Volksgemeinschaft, with its connotation of conspiracy for world conquest, held out a reasonable hope that every German could eventually become a factory owner. 
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.37) To the small shopkeeper the banker appeared to be the same kind of exploiter as the owner of a  big industrial enterprise was to the worker. But while the European workers, from their own experience and a  Marxist education in economics, knew that the capitalist filled the double function of exploiting them and giving them the opportunity to produce, the small shopkeeper had found nobody to enlighten him about his social and economic destiny. His predicament was even worse than the worker's and on the basis  of his experience he considered the banker a  parasite and usurer whom he had...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
      (p.444) The concentration camp as an institution was not established for the sake of any possible labor yield; the only permanent economic function of the camps has been the financing of their own supervisory apparatus; thus from the economic point of view the concentration camps exist mostly for their own sake. Any work that has been performed could have been done much better and more cheaply under different conditions. Especially Russia, whose concentration camps are mostly described as forced-labor camps be-cause Soviet bureaucracy has chosen to dignify them with this name, reveals most clearly that forced labor is not the primary...
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism (1973)
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