At the end of March 1952 Hannah Arendt journeyed to Europe in order to renew her intellectual friendships. The trip was busy; she was much underway, visiting Switzerland and southern Germany, meeting with Jaspers and Heidegger, traveling through western Germany and England. “Zum Schreiben komme ich kaum,” she complained in May from Paris, writing to Heinrich Blücher in New York, “ich muß die Zeit in den Bibliotheken ausnutzen. Das einzige, was ich unbedingt machen muß, ist die Sache für die Jaspers-Festschrift, wahrscheinlich über Ideologie und Terror. Das ist nur eine Zeitfrage und wäre gut zu fixieren, um es dann als Vortrag bereit zu haben” (ABlü, 254).
Offener Horizont: Festschrift für Karl Jaspers, edited by the publisher Klaus Piper, would appear in February of 1953, including the essay “Ideologie und Terror” in the exclusively German-language company of essays by Albert Camus, José Ortega y Gasset, Paul Ricoeur, Aldous Huxley, Alfred Weber, Jeanne Hersch, and Walter Kaufmann, among others. By this time, Arendt had returned to the United States. Throughout the next two years, the essay continued to play a role in her developing conceptions. In a letter to Alan K. Campbell from February 25 where she characterizes the fundamental antagonism in the contemporary international order, Arendt writes: “The struggle is between freedom and the dual compulsion of terror and ideology.” 1 And a month earlier in January 1953, when she had appealed to the Guggenheim Committee to renew the grant they had awarded her in 1952, she had identified four chapters of a drafted book.2 There she writes: “Chapter 4 on Ideology and Terror will be published shortly in the Review of Politics. I enclose also a different version (this is not simply a translation) which has been published in German in the Jaspers Festschrift.”3 An English language version of the essay, “Ideology and Terror,” did appear in Waldemar Gurian’s journal The Review of Politics, though not until July of that year. Titled “Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government,” it is, indeed, not simply a translation, but an articulation in English of the insights animating her German-language text.
As late as April of 1954, in the book she had come to call The Modern Challenge to Tradition, Arendt included the heading “Ideologie und Terror” in a scheme for its possible organization that she noted in her Denktagebuch. “Buch: Eventuell drei Essays: Staatsformen – Vita activa – Philosophie und Politik. Im 1. Polis, römische Republik etc. inklusive Montesquieu und Ableitung des Herrschaftsbegriffs. Auch Ideologie und Terror.” (DT, 482). Much has changed in the intervening time in Arendt’s understanding of this project, but ideology and terror continue to be determinate concerns. This late reappearance of the German-language conceptual pair together with Montesquieu and forms of the state testifies to the persistence of this articulation in Arendt’s conceptions throughout these months.
In the end, Arendt decided to present the essay as the conclusion of the German translation of her book on totalitarianism, Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft. She shifted her attention to this long-dormant translation of The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1955, setting aside her work on The Modern Challenge to Tradition, to which she would not return. The essay in that iteration, “Ideologie und Terror: eine neue Staatsform,” hews closely to the version in the Jaspers Festschrift, while its complementary English version, appended to the second edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism (1958), echoes more closely the version in The Review of Politics. Arendt’s eventual decision to append “Ideologie und Terror / Ideology and Terror” to her treatise on totalitarianism is one of the clearest indications that The Modern Challenge to Tradition had been irrevocably superseded.
There can be no question that Arendt considered “Ideologie und Terror” one of her weightiest statements. Not only does her remark in her letter to Blücher in the spring of 1952 reveal the significant venue for which the essay was originally conceived, positioning the text as an address to Karl Jaspers, who represented for Arendt the surviving integrity of German culture. By labeling it a Vortrag, her description also suggests a supplemental purpose behind the work. The Origins of Totalitarianism, though only recently published and in a language by no means widely spoken among Continental intellectuals of the day, had already begun to make waves in Europe. By 1952 Arendt had published parts of the treatise in German in Die Wandlung and Der Monat, and Golo Mann had reviewed the finished book, critically but respectfully, in the Neue Zeitung.4 The educated public in Germany was curious about the imposing study and its unusual author. Arendt conceived “Ideologie und Terror” not only to honor her intellectual mentor Jaspers, but also to introduce to German audiences the major conclusions to which she had come in studying the catastrophes which they had all one way or another so recently survived. She delivered the lecture several times in June and July of 1952, in Tübingen, in Cologne, in Frankfurt, and in Heidelberg, and gave a version of it in Manchester, England, that we must suppose was in English.
A letter to Kurt Blumenfeld captures a sense of the renewed intellectual power “Ideologie und Terror” had managed to channel in Arendt even before her return to the United States. Her regular letters to Heinrich Blücher had shown the writing going smoothly and the lectures being well-received: “Ich schreibe gerade an den Vorträgen, Ideologie und Terror, der dann in die Jaspers-Festschrift rein soll. Wird, scheint mir, ganz gut” (ABlü, 276). But perhaps inspired by the Nietzschean mountainscapes of St. Moritz when she wrote to Blumenfeld in Jerusalem in August, she situated the essay in a much broader perspective. “Zum ersten Mal seit 1933 werde ich nur arbeiten,” she wrote, looking forward.
Habe viel vor. Hatte gedacht, daß nach den Origins ich nie mehr was zustande bringen werde. Dies aber stimmt nicht. Ich schicke Dir demnächst, d. h. in ein paar Monaten einen Essay über Ideologie und Terror (den doppelten Zwang), den ich für die Jaspersfestschrift aus einer größeren, ein bißchen philosophischen Abhandlung herausgeschnitten habe und aus dem Du sehen wirst, daß ich mit einem Bein bei Montesquieu gelandet bin und das andere wieder fest in meinen guten alten Augustin plaziert habe. Ich habe eine verfluchte Lust, was richtiges zu machen, und schlage mich gerade mit der Republik rum, lese also wieder Plato und griechisch. (ABlf, 62-63)
The archive preserves no plausible candidate for the “größere, ein bißchen philosophische Abhandlung” from which Arendt claims here to have extracted “Ideologie und Terror,” and it is hard to know how literally we should take this. She had been thinking in these terms since at least 1951, identifying “Ideology” and “Terror” as the distinguishing characteristics of totalitarian domination as an historical phenomenon.5 The “Abhandlung” may simply be the retrospective philosophical framework toward which Arendt here gestures, a return through Montesquieu and Augustine to Plato. In any case, “Ideologie und Terror” redirects the urgency of her governing concern from the topical conflicts unfolding around contemporary Stalinism — the “totalitarian elements of Marxism”6 — toward the fundamental theoretical implications of the sheer historical fact of totalitarian domination. The historical scale and conceptual context in terms of which Arendt hoped to grasp the present crisis now reached to the edge of what was knowable. This is the “was richtiges” she feels herself newly inspired to undertake.
The public effect of the talk was impressive enough to prompt Otto Roegele, the editor-in-chief of the conservative Catholic newspaper Rheinischer Merkur, founded immediately after the war in Cologne and published out of Bonn in the Federal Republic, to come to Frankfurt to solicit contributions from the author.7 The meeting led to a second contemporary publication of “Ideologie und Terror,” where it takes up more than an entire four-column page of two successive issues of the Rheinische Merkur, on February 6 and 13, 1953. Arendt is there introduced in the following way:
Die jetzt in New York lebende, in Königsberg geborene Verfasserin des Aufsatzes “Ideologie und Terror” […], einst Schülerin von Heidegger und Jaspers, ist den Fachleuten seit langem bekannt durch eine bedeutende Studie über Augustinus. Ihr 1951 erschienenes Werk “Die Ursprünge des Totalitarismus” hat mit einem Schlag den Ruf der politischen Schriftstellerin Hannah Arendt in der ganzen westlichen Welt verbreitet. In dem Artikel “Ideologie und Terror” ist ein wesentlicher Teil der Gedanken dieses Buches zusammengefaßt; er wird in der vollständigen Fassung, in der zum 70. Geburtstag des Philosophen Karl Jaspers am 23. Februar 1953 erscheinenden Festschrift des Verlages R. Piper (München) enthalten sein.
This second version of the essay is quite different from the version that appears in the Festschrift. At 7000 words about a third shorter than the 10 000-word text for Jaspers, “Ideologie und Terror” in the Rheinische Merkur is also rearranged, with the introduction of Montesquieu brought much closer to the opening of the essay, and the later discussion of fear and terror as principles of political action considerably shortened.
Disregarding in this context the eventual publication as the conclusion to Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft / The Origins of Totalitarianism, the editors were thus confronted with three published versions of the essay: the two German-language versions in the Jaspers Festschrift and the Rheinische Merkur, and the English-language version in The Review of Politics. In addition to these three publications, Arendt’s archive preserves at least three further versions of the text in manuscript form. A 24-page typescript contains the text for the “Vortrag” Arendt delivered in Germany in 1952. The typewritten page numbers indicate that 21 pages of this text belonged to a longer 29-page typescript much closer to the Festschrift version of the essay. In order to construct a more compact articulation of her argument, Arendt removed pages 2, 3, and 4, as well as page 14 and pages 22 through 25 of that original typescript. Having disposed of these eight pages, Arendt then moved page 9, the beginning of part II of the essay, to the position of page 2, composed three abbreviated pages (3, 12, and 20) to suture the breaks left behind by the missing pages, and renumbered the whole by hand.
The result is far closer both in length and presentational sequence to the version published in the Rheinische Merkur, and shows that that newspaper publication reflects the lecture Arendt delivered rather more than the Festschrift version does. Above the title on the typescript she has noted “Vortrag: Tinte: ca. 50 Minuten Bleistift: ca. 30 Minuten,” and throughout the text, passages are bracketed with pencil and ink and arrows trace complementary paths through the text. There can thus be little doubt that the typescript the archive preserves is the record of two versions of the lecture as Arendt gave them in Germany in the spring and summer of 1952. The text as it appears in the Rheinische Merkur is close to the 50 minutes version of the lecture, with many of the phrases and sentences that do not appear there marked as disposable in the typescript. Though not all; a paragraph on the ninth page concerning the “Versuchung, menschliches Handeln am Modell des Herstellens von Gegenstaenden zu orientieren,” for instance, which appears in the Festschrift, does not show up in the Rheinische Merkur, though nothing in the typescript indicates a cut here. Nonetheless, the differences between the lecture and the Rheinische Merkur versions are hardly significant enough to warrant a separate publication; the lecture is reserved for the digital platform. The pages Arendt removed from Typescript (B), when reintroduced into the rearranged typescript, reveal a variant of “Ideologie und Terror” (A) quite close to the Festschrift, though not so exact as to suggest that this was the typescript from which Piper Verlag set the printed version. This reconstructed typescript represents the oldest variant of the essay that has survived, but it, too, is so similar to the published essay, in this case the Festschrift, that it is not reproduced separately here.
Arendt’s archive preserves no unambiguous typescript of the English “Ideology and Terror” that appeared in the Review of Politics. Yet there is a curious 26 page text, untitled and differing substantially from both the German and the English versions of “Ideologie und Terror / Ideology and Terror,” that may represent something like a preliminary version of the text, one that may reach back to the lost Manchester lecture Arendt delivered in 1952, or perhaps even earlier.
This typescript has been filed in the LOC together with the text “On the Nature of Totalitarianism: An Essay in Understanding,” but both in appearance and pagination does not seem to belong to that essay. The differences between this “proto-Ideology and Terror” and the German and English language publications of “Ideologie und Terror / Ideology and Terror” are substantial. This typescript is not subdivided into four sections, as both the German and the published English versions are, but follows an unbroken path toward its abrupt termination. The discussion of Montesquieu is far less well-developed; Arendt refers to Chapter 13 of Part I, Book 5 of The Spirit of the Laws, and recites his acting principles of the different forms of government, but hardly expands upon his political theory and its historical role in understanding collective life. Indeed, Arendt’s entire discussion in the essay makes a somewhat hasty impression, and though the typescript includes two insertions designed for page 20, and a three-page expansion of the nineteenth page, as well as various typed and handwritten marginal addenda that show she revised it to some extent, the text ends in the middle of a sentence, and no conclusion has survived.
Yet the overall gist of the argument — that totalitarianism is an unprecedented form of government that cannot be reduced to traditional tyrannical rule, that it operates by means of laws of motion that consolidate into an impersonal system of terror the interpersonal space where communities exist; that it imposes ideologies that extinguish through implacable logical conclusiveness all spontaneous human thinking; that it is a manifestation of an abysmal mass loneliness characteristic of modern societies — this all is close to the more polished discussion in “Ideologie und Terror / Ideology and Terror.” A careful comparison between this text and the English version reveals a number of common expressions. Thus we find in this typescript the following remarks: “This stringent logicality as an inspiration of action permeates the whole structure of totalitarian movements and totalitarian governments. The most persuasive argument of which Hitler and Stalin are equally fond, is to insist that who said A must necessarily also say B and C and finally end up with the last letter of the alphabet.”8 And in the version for The Review of Politics we read: “This stringent logicality as a guide to action permeates the whole structure of totalitarian movements and governments.” And a page later: “The most persuasive argument in this respect, an argument of which Hitler like Stalin was very fond, is: You can’t say A without saying B and C and so on, down to the end of the murderous alphabet.”9 The examples could be multiplied.
So what is this typescript? In Arendt’s letter reapplying to the Guggenheim Committee, written at the end of January 1953, she may suggest that an English version of Ideology and Terror preexisted the German version. We have already quoted the beginning of her remarks. The full quotation runs: “Chapter 4 on Ideology and Terror will be published shortly in the Review of Politics. I enclose also a different version (this is not simply a translation) which has been published in German in the Jaspers Festschrift; I have not yet received reprints and therefore am including the galley proofs. The last section of this on Solitude and Loneliness will be enlarged and both versions combined in order to be incorporated into the book.”
While Arendt insists that the German is “not simply a translation,” this may also imply “to some extent a translation,” at least to the extent that the Festschrift text is subsequent to an English text on these themes. The archive preserves the text of a lecture Arendt gave at Notre Dame in December 1950 under the title “Ideology and Propaganda,”10 which addresses the unprecedented character of totalitarianism and has a similar physical appearance to this text, so there may well have been older texts on these matters. What the Guggenheim letter tells us is that on January 29, 1953, Arendt had in her possession something in English that could be called “Ideology and Terror” and that anticipated a publication “shortly” in The Review of Politics. In fact, it would be seven months before the English language version of the essay appeared, a considerable interval in the rapid journalistic publishing world of the day. Moreover, whatever text Arendt had in January, she was not happy enough with it to submit it to the Guggenheim Committee on its own, but felt it needed to be supplemented by the German-language text appearing in the Festschrift. Would Arendt have felt that the masterful discussion Waldemar Gurian published half a year later needed such assistance? Or was she referring to an earlier, less polished articulation?
If we recall that Arendt delivered a version of “Ideologie und Terror” in Manchester in the summer of 1952, one that we imagine must have been in English, some further features of this typescript become suggestive. At the time she gave it, that British lecture does not seem to have been as successful as her German performances. “Liebster,” she wrote with quiet impatience to Blücher,
ehe ich mit der Hand schreibe, sollte ich wahrscheinlich lieber gar nicht schreiben. Aber hier sitze ich in Manchester, das weiter von Europa ist als New York, und es ist Donnerstag, und die Maschine habe ich in London gelassen, und den Vortrag habe ich hinter mir; die Engländer konnten beim besten Willen nicht entdecken, what I am talking about. Dies war nicht meine Schuld. Es ist halt England, und sie haben von den Dingen, die sie beinahe den Hals gekostet hätten und sie möglicherweise noch den Hals kosten werden, nicht die leiseste Ahnung.11
We can identify by its typeface the typewriter Arendt used during her travels in Europe, and the first eighteen pages of this text were not written on that machine. The last eight pages, beginning with a new page 19, that starts “Loneliness is not solitude,” and proceeds to the provisional end of the text, were, however.12 It is not implausible that Arendt reworked an older text to prepare the talk in Manchester. Unlike the published versions of the essay, which start from the unprecedented nature of totalitarianism, the typescript starts with the notion of imperialism, one of the central topics of The Origins of Totalitarianism but also a concept that would be of particular relevance to an English audience. The lack of subdivisions and moments of distinctly oral style (“Terror in the sense we have spoken of it today,”13 ) support the hypothesis that this typescript, if it is not the Manchester lecture itself, is based on that lecture.
As Arendt’s reapplication letter admits, her research for the book she had originally planned to write had rapidly reoriented her conceptions in a fundamental way. The materials she drew together in January to document her progress were thus, as she indicates herself, a bit ad hoc and unfinished. A Manchester version of “Ideology and Terror” would likely have been one of the few English-language texts she had at hand from the preceding year, and thus a plausible candidate for revision and inclusion in the application materials, even if it weren’t entirely finished. Whatever the actual compositional history might have been, though, it is clear that her efforts moved back and forth several times between English and German articulations of her thoughts.
Between Manchester and the Guggenheim letter, a third occasion could possibly underlie this typescript. Quite shortly upon her return to the United States in mid-August, Arendt had agreed to participate in the annual conference of the American Political Science Association in Buffalo, New York (“die dämliche Konferenz,” as she wrote to her husband [ABlü, 312]), on August 25 and 26. The editors have found only the barest record of the proceedings,14 and no indication that she delivered a lecture there, but she well may have, and the timeframe would have left her precious little opportunity to prepare an entirely new talk. (She had returned to the US by airplane, foregoing a week-long ocean voyage that five months earlier in the other direction had offered her the leisure to think through issues of “Ideologie und Terror.”) Perhaps she delivered before the APSA a version of the lecture she had recently been giving in Europe for that rushed occasion.
The editors have thus concluded that this untitled English-language typescript represents a preliminary stage of her arguments informing the German “Ideologie und Terror” and the published English reformulation, a version correlated philologically (even if a bit indeterminately) with one or another of these three occasions in Manchester, Buffalo, and among the writings submitted to Guggenheim, and anticipating the eventual English-language version. We therefore include it in the “Ideologie und Terror / Ideology and Terror” complex as a preliminary draft.
HA to Alan K. Campbell, February 25, 1953. (CU, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.) The commentary to “Religion and Politics” constitutes the fuller context for this letter.
HA to Henry Allen Moe, January 29, 1953. (CO, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation)
Cf. AJa, 210. Golo Mann, “Vom totalen Staat,” Die Neue Zeitung, October 20, 1951, 14.
Thus already in a “Symposium on Totalitarianism” sponsored by the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, and held in New York City on November 28, 1951, Arendt is recorded as saying that totalitarianism “means two things: first, terror as the essence of government; second, logicality or ideology as the principle which makes people act.”
For a description of this early stage of Arendt’s post-OT thinking, see the Afterword.
“Sah in Deutschland noch einige gute Leute, darunter den Chefredakteur des ‘Rheinischen Merkur’, der extra nach Frankfurt kam, um mich zur Mitarbeit zu gewinnen.” (ABlü, 320).
“Ideology and Propaganda” lecture. University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. 1950.
HA to Blücher, June 26, 1952, ABlü, 296-297.
For a detailed description of this typewriter and the evidence it provides for dating HA’s texts, see the editorial commentary to “Karl Marx and the Tradition of Political Thought: The Broken Thread of Tradition.”
A letter from Andrew Gyorgy, dated July 14, 1952, confirms that the conference was held at the Statler Hotel in Buffalo and that Arendt took part in it: “I am happy to tell you that the final program for the Convention has just been completed, and your name was added to the panel of participants. We are definitely expecting you in Buffalo and are looking forward to meeting you personally.” (CU, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.) Research among the records of the American Political Science Association itself, as well as in the Harry S. Truman Library where the papers of Luther Gulick, president of the APSA in 1952, are housed, have turned up no surviving program of the convention that year or any further documentation of Arendt’s invitation, contribution, or subsequent reactions to it.