A Treasure for the Future

"A Treasure for the Future," The New Republic, July 10, 1961. (A review of Between Past and Future:  Six Exercises in Political Thought by Hannah Arendt.)


The subtitle, however, may be misleading. Miss Arendt writes with passion and urgency, and she is a woman of strong political opinions. But she isn’t a political thinker in this book. She is that more valuable thing, a political philosopher. If politics is the art of the possible, then political thinking is the fusion of abstract idea with gross circumstance; it is directed and limited by political commitment. In contrast, political philosophy is (or ought to be) located at a distant remove from mere opinion: it is the contemplation of man as a political animal. It stands to political activity much as the philosophy of science stands to scientific activity: its comprehension is post facto, and when it is tempted to be prescriptive, it falls into presumption. True, Miss Arendt is not always immune to this temptation. Her last two essays, on American Education and Mass Culture, are full of marvelous insights into education and culture generally; yet, heedless of the crude perplexities that the educator or the journalist has to face, they are less relevant than she seems to think. But this is a trivial lapse.

The New Republic