"Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion" by Jeffrey C.              Isaac

Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion Jeffrey C. Isaac

Publication date:
28 Sep 1994
Yale University Press
334 pages: 235 x 156mm

The works of Hannah Arendt and Albert Camus--two of the most compelling political thinkers of the "resistance generation" that lived through World War II--can still provide penetrating insights for contemporary political reflection. Jeffrey C. Isaac offers new interpretations of these writers, viewing both as engaged intellectuals who grappled with the possibilities of political radicalism in a world in which liberalism and Marxism had revealed their inadequacy by being complicit in the rise of totalitarianism.

According to Isaac, self-styled postmodern writers who proclaim the death of grandiose ideologies often fail to recognize that such thinkers as Camus and Arendt had already noted this. But unlike many postmodernists, these two sought to preserve what was worthy in modern humanism--the idea of a common human condition and a commitment to human rights and the dignity of individuals. Isaac shows that both writers advanced the idea of a democratic civil society made up of self-limiting groups. Although they criticized the typical institutions of mass democratic politics, they endorsed alternative forms of local and international organization that defy the principle of state sovereignty. Isaac also shows how Arendt's writings on the Middle East, and Camus's on Algeria, urged the creation of such institutions. The vision of a "rebellious politics" that Arendt and Camus shared is of great relevance to current debates in democratic theory and to the transformations taking place in Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union.

"Isaac draws together Arendt and Camus into a fruitful dialogue. That dialogue is wide-ranging and tackles major events of the twentieth century, the creation and terrible denouement of totalitarianism, and, in its aftermath, the possibility for democratic politics, the forging of human identity, and the sustaining of anything like an ethical life. The work is very important."? Jean Bethke Elshtain, Vanderbilt University

"An extraordinarily intelligent and perceptive book."--Margaret Canovan, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"Provocative [and] interesting."--Shiraz Dossa, American Political Science Review

"Isaac, by placing Arendt and Camus in comparative perspective, makes a valuable contribution to an often ignored chapter in the history of the non-Marxist Left."--Robert Paul Resch, American Historical Review

"A stimulating comparative study of the political thought of Hannah Arendt and Albert Camus."--Maurizio d?EntrŠves, Political Studies

"A most intelligent and imaginative discussion of thr political thinking of Hannah Arendt and Albert Camus."--Margaret Canovan, International Studies in Philosophy

"[Isaac] has written a book that needed to be written, a book that traces with clarity and rigor the line that unites Arendt and Camus with more recent intellectuals who, sometimes reluctantly, have had to assume the mantle of political responsibility."--David R. Ellison, SubStance

"An inspired and inspiring book."?E.J. Dionne, Jr., Commonweal