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Thinking in Dark TimesHannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics$
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Roger Berkowitz, Jeffrey Katz, and Thomas Keenan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780823230754

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823230754.001.0001

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A Lying World Order

A Lying World Order

Political Deception and The Threat of Totalitarianism

(p.73) A Lying World Order
Thinking in Dark Times

Peg Birmingham

Fordham University Press

This chapter addresses the question whether totalitarianism is a threat today. It considers one element of totalitarianism that Hannah Arendt was herself very concerned about—a “lying world order.” At the outset of Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt raises the issue of political deception, considering the difference between the ancient and modern sophists and their relation to truth and reality. She argues that while the ancient sophists were satisfied with “a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth”, modern sophists want a great deal more, namely, “a lasting victory at the expense of reality itself”. Arendt claims that the characteristic that sets totalitarianism apart from tyrannical and dictatorial regimes is precisely the modern sophistic victory at the expense of reality, a victory that, she argues, institutes a lying world order. Indeed, her discussion of radical evil in the Origins of Totalitarianism cannot be understood apart from her continuing preoccupation with the problem of this particular kind of political deception.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, totalitarianism, ideology, Origins of Totalitarianism, lying, political deception, truth, reality

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