A Place In The World: Hannah Arendt And The Political Conditions Of Human Rights
Hannah Arendt famously argued in the Origins of Totalitarianism that human rights were unable to protect the stateless people produced by the conflicts of the first half of the 20th century because they were unable to secure the 'right to have rights.' Commentators on her thought have puzzled over this phrase for over 50 years. The question is how to reconcile the clearly universalist spirit behind Arendt's reflections on rights and the clearly local character of her overall approach to politics. In this dissertation, I argue that Arendt's approach presents a profound critique of liberal human rights theory which is itself central to contemporary human rights theory. Specifically, I take up Arendt's claim that in order to be a bearer of rights, a person must have 'a place in the world'. I argue that Arendt's concept of 'world', an idea that she appropriated from Heidegger and outlined in The Human Condition, was already at work in The Origins of Totalitarianism. I further argue that it is only in light of her concept of 'world' that we can understand the 'right to have rights'. This dissertation is therefore both an interpretation the political thought of Hannah Arendt and an application of that thought to contemporary human rights theory and practice. It consists in an evaluation and critique of the role of human rights in international politics, engaging with normative human rights theory, as well as specific problems of statelessness, international responsibility and international intervention.
Human Rights; Hannah Arendt; John Rawls
Smith, Anna Marie
Frank, Jason; Buck-Morss, Susan
Ph. D., Government
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis