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Arendt Studies

Volume 3, 2019

Adi Armon
Pages 49-68

The “Origins of The Origins”
Antisemitism, Hannah Arendt, and the Influence of Bernard Lazare

Unlike “Imperialism” and “Totalitarianism,” the last two chapters in Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), written in the United States in the 1940s, the completion of the first chapter, “Antisemitism”, was preceded by more than two decades of writing in Europe and in the United States, during which Arendt found it increasingly necessary to address issues related to the Jews’ political and social situation. The chapter may be only one part of the book, but it is in fact the “origin of The Origins” and its cornerstone. In order to trace several themes of this seminal chapter, we must analyze the contribution of the French Jewish thinker, Bernard Lazare, to Arendt’s thinking. Without him, “Antisemitism” would never have coalesced and seen the light of day as a political analysis of the phenomenon. Without the “Antisemitism” chapter, The Origins of Totalitarianism would not have become a canonical work of twentieth-century political thought.

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