Apr. 19th, 2017

essentialsaltes: (that's not funny!)
"The book is regularly listed as one of the best non-fiction books of the 20th century."

But I gave up. I couldn't take any more. (Speaking of giving up, I'm slowly figuring out what to do and where to go with the journal. I mean, just about everyone's gone already, and the new Russian TOS is not inspiring confidence.)

I really found the writing style(?) uncongenial. I think my main beef is that Arendt is primarily a political theorist and philosopher, and not a historian. So there are airy passages of theses and ideas, but I found it not tied enough to supporting factual detail. Often a reasonable story was being spun, but it all felt like a free-floating structure, moored only by tenuous lines to shore. And worse.

The book is organized in three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism.

The most interesting idea I found in Antisemitism was that, in the feudal age, Jews could be categorized and understood as the Other. It was easy. Sure, there's an enclave of Jews in Paris. But we're Franks, and they are Jews. Or we are Teutons, and they are Jews. As the modern nation-state developed, suddenly everyone had to be categorized as citizens of some nation. What? We're all French? But they're Jews, they're not French! (I don't think Arendt mentions it, but it occurs to me that another state-less people that had maybe even more difficulty getting tied down to a world of 'nations' were the Romany.)
Many, many pages are devoted to the Dreyfus Affair, but I found it maddening that it mostly talks around the Dreyfus Affair, and not really about the Dreyfus Affair. I mean, it's a good thing I knew the basic details, because you will learn more about Zola than Dreyfus (the first foreshadowing of what ultimately made me throw the book across the... okay, okay, to snap my iPad shut quite forcefully).

The most interesting idea I found in the first 75% of Imperialism, was that one of the things that led to imperialism was there was excess capital in the major European countries, and there was nothing much to invest in. And there was some excess labor force in these countries with nothing to do. And imperialism is the outlet for this. Betraying some Marxist tendencies, Arendt sees this as an unnatural alliance of capital and mob-labor to go exploit the world.

There's a discussion of imperialism in Africa with a lot of focus on South Africa, but also long quoted passages from Joseph Conrad. As her attention turns to Asia, she delves a bit into The Great Game, and then inevitably to Kipling. And then it really started to bother me -- the discussion is light on facts, but heavy on allusions to works of fiction. However much they may reflect the zeitgeist of imperialism, I can't take this seriously any more.

Now it's time for the home game: what author is about to become inevitable? How long into the passage does it take you to identify him?

The Home Game! )

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