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Arendt Studies

Volume 2, 2018

Matías Sirczuk
Pages 171-191
DOI: 10.5840/arendtstudies201862013

Look at Politics With Eyes Unclouded By Philosophy
The Arendtian Reading of Montesquieu

In the following, I will trace the presence of Montesquieu in Arendt’s work, giving an account of both Arendt’s praise for the French writer’s particular way of thinking the political and his approach to problems that will become central to the development of Arendt’s own thought. Firstly, I will follow Arendt down the path that led her to discover fundamental tools in Montesquieu for understanding totalitarianism “with eyes unclouded by philosophy.” Secondly, I will track the way in which the Arendtian reconceptualization of some key political words—power, law and freedom—is threaded through with her reading of the French author. Thirdly, I will look into the way in which Montesquieu’s formulation of a particular link between what Arendt calls the basic experience and the political regime, allows her to go on to discover a criteria that makes it possible to distinguish between political and anti-political ways of living together; and allows us to see that there is a phenomenally essential element within tyranny and totalitarianism that ensures that it “develops the germs of its own destruction the moment it comes into existence.”