Scientific article
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New Mass Movements: Hannah Arendt, Literature and Politics

ContributorsSwift, Simon
Published inSPELL, vol. 27, p. 39-52
Publication date2012

This essay considers the prominence of the word "movement," and of ideas of fluidity, displacement and mobility in different forms across Hannah Arendt's writings of the 1950s and 1960s. I argue that Arendt made significant use of uterature in order to make sense of a range of plitical movements, including Nazism, the student protest movement of the 1960s, and Black Power. She did so because she found political theory - and especially Marxist ideas of the state and of class interest — to be singularly incapable of making sense of the phenomenon of a political movement. Nazism was characterized, for Arendt, by an abandonment of any settled political ideology, as well as by a need to be perpetually on the move, and to move and displace those who were subject to its power. I argue that in the 1960s, Arendt drew attention to a different form of pliticcal movement — the motion that is accorded to political subjects by their emotions. I claim that this later argument prefigures more recent work in the field of emotion studies, while providing a model for a different understanding of an inter-disciplinary English studies, which is itself on the move.

  • Hannah Arendt
  • Literature
  • Politics
  • Sentiment
  • Reason
  • War
  • Mobility
Citation (ISO format)
SWIFT, Simon. New Mass Movements: Hannah Arendt, Literature and Politics. In: SPELL, 2012, vol. 27, p. 39–52. doi: 10.5169/seals-323524
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0940-0478

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