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Arendt, Hannah.

Origins of Totalitarianism.


Arendt's Intellectual Masterpiece
Inscribed To Harold Rosenberg
Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace, (1951).
8vo.; blue cloth; dust-jacket, lightly worn; few occasional stains to lower page edges; else fresh and bright.        
First edition of Arendt's first essential book, a work in which she strives to reckon with "two elements, antisemitism and imperialism, [which] bear evil fruit in totalitarianism-our own era of concentration camps and death factories" (dust-jacket). A presentation copy, inscribed to Arendt's long-time intimate Harold Rosenberg: To Harold in friendship Hannah. The inscription is probably contemporary with publication, about the time Arendt and Rosenberg first met.
In 1951 Arendt's reputation was as a well-respected but obscure scholar; that changed radically with the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism, her dense critique of "just what had gone so wrong in the world" during the previous decades. The book dazzled readers and critics-and still does-and firmly established Arendt as one of the major moral thinkers, Jewish or Gentile, of her era. Arendt's ambitious intellectual and emotional aims for the work are well-captured by a few sentences from her preface:
This book has been written against a background of both reckless optimism and reckless despair. It holds that Progress and Doom are two sides of the same medal; that both are articles of superstition, not of faith. It was written out of the conviction that it should be possible to discover the hidden mechanics by which all traditional elements of our political and spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration where everything seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human comprehension, unusable for human purpose. To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of "historical necessity," but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless, and unreal. ( vii-viii)

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