For Hannah Arendt, the age of liberal democracy, beginning with the twinned revolutions of the late eighteenth century in America and France and continuing on to the Holocaust, rested on an intractable paradox.1 The systemic shifts that inaugurated this era moved the basis of political sovereignty from the monarch and to the people. Underpinning this change was the establishment of a legal framework that rested on human rights, the notion that our very humanness entitles us to live and think politically. These rights can be positive and pertain to, say, the freedoms of movement, speech, faith, and political identification, or they can be protective, shielding us from the excesses and violence of state power. In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Arendt is a humanist and can, accordingly, see the utopian virtues of this model, but ultimately, in the wake of the...

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