Finding a Home in the World: Hannah Arendt and the Principles of Political Love Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Caver, Christopher
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • This dissertation seeks to understand and clarify Hannah Arendt’s concept of amor mundi, a love of the world, and the way it fits into her corpus and into contemporary theoretical understandings of love’s relationship to politics. I argue that this concept fundamentally animates Arendt’s political thought and, as such, is an under-examined area of scholarship. Furthermore, I argue that it has important normative implications for politics: in our political ideals, our institutional practices, and the sorts of judgments we make about political action. However, I also argue that this concept and Arendt’s pluralistic ideals more broadly are limited in terms of the way their aestheticization of politics can render the marginalization faced by some citizens more difficult to address. I offer an interpretation of the work of James Baldwin in order to reevaluate, through the lens of race, the difficult yet important ways a love of the world might be negotiated in contexts of racial hierarchy. Chapter 1 lays out the plan of the dissertation and situates its contribution to debates within and around scholarship on Arendt and love. Chapter 2 sets out to lay a groundwork for understanding the way that Arendt approaches the concept of a public world, both its centrality to her political thought and the threats it faces in modern times. Chapter 3 then explicates what a love of the world meant for Arendt: its theoretical precursors and influences, its role in responding to modern threats to the world, and some of the ways Arendt saw it exemplified. Chapter 4 takes on a particularly interesting test of Arendt’s approach, by placing it in dialogue with the work of James Baldwin. In so doing I address the significant similarities and productive differences between the two writers on the topic of love, and offer a reading of Baldwin that critically extends Arendt’s approach. In Chapter 5 I then use this reading to continue the contrast I draw between Arendt and Baldwin by applying it to three manifestations of political love that Arendt highlights: in teaching, in protest, and in grassroots councils. Finally, in Chapter 6 I summarize my findings and discuss their implications for contemporary politics and what else— besides a love of the world—might be necessary for political freedom.
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  • In Copyright
  • Spinner-Halev, Jeff
  • Bickford, Susan
  • Berger, Michele
  • McGowan, John
  • Leonard, Stephen
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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