The Public Realm and the Public Self
The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt
From the time she set the intellectual world on fire with her reflections on Eichmann (1963), Hannah Arendt has been seen, essentially, as a literary commentator who had interesting things to say about political and cultural matters. In this critical study, Shiraz Dossa argues that Arendt is a political theorist in the sense in which Aristotle is a theorist, and that the key to her political theory lies in the twin notions of the “public realm” and the “public self”.
In this work, the author explains how Arendt’s unconventional and controversial views make sense on the terrain of her political theory. He shows that her judgement on thinkers, actors, and events as diverse as Plato, Marx, Machiavelli, Freud, Conrad, Hobbes, Hitler, the Holocaust, the French Revolution, and European colonialism flow directly from her political theory.
Tracing the origins of this theory to Homer and Periclean Athens, Dossa underlines Arendt’s unique contribution to reinventing the idea and the ideal of citizenship, reminding us that the public realm is the locus of friendship, community, identity, and in a certain sense, humanity. Arendt believes that no one who prefets his or her private interest to public affairs in the old sense can claim to be fully human or truly excellent.
``This is in my view a work of unusual excellence. What is most impressive in this work is Dr. Dossa's finely tuned critical posture, which acknowledges and elucidates Arendt's stature as an innovative thinker, immersed in and yet profoundly at odds with the classical Greek tradition. He then proceeds to do with Arendt's thought what she has done with the thought of Plato and Aristotle: Dossa articulates what in his view are some fundamental flaws in Arendt's thought, and makes a compelling argument to support his contentions. ''- Christian Bay
``This project is worth attending to given the resurgence of (moral) communitarianism in contemporary political thought. And, its shortcomings notwithstanding, Shiraz Dossa's The Public Realm and the Public Self provides a thoughtful and incisive commentary on many of the complex and elusive commitments that characterize Arendt's political programmatic. ''- Political Theory