The Thinker and the Specialist

“Attending this trial is somehow, I maintain, an obligation that I have to my past,” writes Hannah Arendt on the eve of the trial of Ex-Lieutenant Colonel of the SS Adolf Eichmann, one of the people most heavily involved in the planning and carrying out of the Holocaust. Originating with Arendt’s correspondences with the weekly newspaper The New Yorker, a volume entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil was published in 1963 and would provoke a strong reaction throughout the Jewish community. The accusations that would arise involved Arendt’s portrayal of Eichmann, her analysis of the Jewish Council’s role, as well as her evaluation of the trial, judicial questions, political scopes and ethical aspects.
By reconstructing this painful event that involves longtime friendships and affection, the author analyses Arendt’s position with regard to questions of guilt, the Law, collective justice and jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, alongside the ‘ambiguity’ of an institution like the Jewish Council and other central categories of Arendtian speculation such as the incapacity to think and the ‘banality’ of evil. What emerges is a complex picture of a courageous and warrior-like Arendt, who is inevitably a philosopher on the human condition, freedom and justice.

Ruggero D’Alessandro serves on the public administrative board in Switzerland and is also a visiting professor at the University of Varese and Sapienza University in Rome. He is the author of numerous publications, including Dal voto alla piazza. Partiti e movimenti nella società globale (From voting to the square. Political parties and movements in the global community) (2013), Alle origini della razionalità borghese. Letture di Ulisse e le Sirene (At the origins of bougeouis rationale. Lectures from Ulysses and the Sirens) (2014) and La diseguaglianza programmata. Stato, capitale, società nel pensiero di Claus Offe (Planned inequality. The State, capital and society according to Claus Offre) (2015).