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Arendt Studies

Volume 5, 2021

Bridget Allan
Pages 121-144

Arendt and Beauvoir on the Failures of Political Judgment in Praxis

In this article, I bring together Hannah Arendt’s and Simone de Beauvoir’s respective theories of political judgment to evaluate the problems that arise from their accounts of judgment in praxis. To do so, I compare Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil on Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Israel and Beauvoir’s “An Eye for an Eye” on Robert Brasillach’s trial in France. In approaching the dilemmas of judgment in theory, both share a commitment to preserving freedom by virtue of our human plurality. In practice, however, both respectively demand the death penalty for Eichmann and Brasillach. I identify three distinct failures of political judgment in praxis: from the accused, the courts, and Arendt and Beauvoir, respectively. I contend that Arendt and Beauvoir fail to appropriately judge Eichmann and Brasillach by arguing for their execution, because it constitutes a form of political violence that undermines their theoretical accounts of judgment.