Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was University Professor of political philosophy in the graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, a visiting professor at several universities including California, Princeton, Columbia, and Chicago, a research director of the Conference on Jewish Relations, the chief editor of Schocken Books, and the executive director of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction in New York City. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1952, and an Arts and Letters Grant of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1954. She is also the author of On Revolution and Eichmann in Jerusalem, which are available from Penguin Classics along with The Portable Hannah Arendt.
Jerome Kohn, who was Hannah Arendt’s last teaching and research assistant, is the director of the Hannah Arendt Center at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research and the trustee of the Hannah Arendt Bluecher Literary Trust. His editions of Hannah Arendt’s unpublished and uncollected writings include Essays in Understanding 1930–1954, Responsibility and Judgment, The Promise of Politics, and, with Ron Feldman, The Jewish Writings of Hannah Arendt.
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.