Philosophy of history and the modern problem of freedom in Hannah Arendt's thought

The first part of the twentieth century brought about a series of unprecedented events. The two world wars not only economically and socially devastated Europe, but also altered its political landscape irrevocably. Millions of people perished in Nazi concentration and extermination camps and in the Soviet Gulag, millions more were displaced or rendered stateless. The world, for the first time, witnessed a regime of total domination and totalitarian terror. In her very widely acknowledged and controversial book "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Arendt investigated the social and political elements that crystallized into the totalitarian regimes of Germany and Soviet Russia. Her insightful observations reveal that totalitarian systems relied on an ideology of historical necessity, which deprived all men of their individuality and spontaneity, and prepared them for their role as either executioner or victim. Where did this idea of historical necessity come from and why did individuals submit to it? How did ideologies become "the keys to history" which presumed to be able to explain everything, yet in the process became completely divorced from reality? Starting from the experience of totalitarianism, this dissertation analyzes the threat posed to freedom by long-established understandings of history and historical necessity in the tradition of Western political philosophy. The aim of my project is to challenge the Hegelian notion of history, a dialectical movement towards the realization of human freedom, which entrusts human affairs to a flowing process, the meaning of which will only be revealed at the end of history. In its stead, I develop a notion of politics and political action grounded in Arendt's political philosophy, which promotes the individual as an acting being and political actions as self-contained events, the value of which can only be redeemed in the public realm. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by addressing your request to ProQuest, 789 E. Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346. Telephone 1-800-521-3042; email: