Hannah Arendt’s Political Humanism

by Horst Mewes (Author)
©2010 Monographs 228 Pages


This introduction to Hannah Arendt’s political thinking, based on a very close reading of the most relevant texts, suggests that her core teaching culminates in a unique kind of political humanism. It consists of the disclosure of unique individual personalities in free public actions inspired by public principles. The full meaning of such principled actions and its actors emerges from an uneasy symbiosis between actors and their casts of judgmental spectators. But it is the free spectators of action who determine its possible meanings. Importantly, only such public meanings save humans from the abyss of meaningless existence. Still, and even though individuals are driven by an urge to public self-presentation, Arendt seems to insist that human freedom ultimately rests on our inability to fully disclose who we are. Perhaps paradoxically, Arendt’s emphasis on a very public humanism links freedom to what remains ineffable about being human. After the destruction wrought by 20th century totalitarianism, Arendt saw important residues of public freedom especially in the modern democratic republic of the United States.


ISBN (Softcover)
public life modern society Political Freedom Political action
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. 226 pp.

Biographical notes

Horst Mewes (Author)

The Author: Horst Mewes teaches political theory at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He holds his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he studied political philosophy with Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss. Mewes has taught at the University of Tuebingen and currently at Catolica University in Lisbon (Portugal). His publications focus on various aspects of the development and nature of modern liberal democracy, including issues of modern citizenship and private and public freedoms.


Title: Hannah Arendt’s Political Humanism