Arendt in crisis: Political thought in between past and future

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For Hannah Arendt, a crisis occurs when we can no longer rely on the prejudices that ordinarily guide us through the world. Every crisis is, therefore, an occasion to reflect upon tradition. By eroding our shared background beliefe, however, the crisis also weakens our ability to communicate and cooperate with each other. The crisis thus confronts us with the question of what community is possible when we do not have anything in common. Arendt's own answer is found in the community of judgment. Insofar as reflective judgments involve soliciting the potential agreement of others, they confirm that some common ground remains despite the loss of shared prejudices. Indeed, only when we cannot take consensus for granted are we truly attentive to others. By focusing on the tenuous togetherness of crisis, Arendt's work shows us that groups supported by shared values, traditions, and purposes are not necessarily political in nature.








Jakob Norberg

Professor of German Studies

Jakob Norberg’s research explores conceptions of community in German thought and literature. His first book, Sociability and Its Enemies (Northwestern 2014), examines the search for non-authoritarian forms of collective life after the end of the Second World War and focuses on thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, and Jürgen Habermas. The second book, The Brothers Grimm and the Making of German Nationalism (Cambridge 2022), shows how Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm viewed philologists as arbiters of national identity, even adjudicators of national territory, and therefore as experts indispensable to the modern nation state. A forthcoming book entitled Schopenhauer’s Politics (Cambridge) reconstructs Arthur Schopenhauer’s anti-nationalist, anti-collectivist political philosophy. His articles have appeared in venues such as PMLA, Arcadia, Cultural Critique, New German Critique, Textual Practice, Telos, and the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought. More information about Norberg can be found on

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