Volume 6

The Modern Challenge to Tradition:
Fragmente eines Buchs

After the completion of her major study of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt worked on a project that she never finished. At first it was to be called “Karl Marx and the Tradition of Political Thought”; later “The Modern Challenge to Tradition.” Alongside a few published essays, ca. 550 pages of mostly fragmentary texts have come down to us, which we publish as a whole for the first time. They let us see into Arendt’s workshop of thinking and writing, in which she undertook a new interrogation of the whole tradition of Western political theory and philosophy after the catastrophes of the 20th century.

Sechs Essays / Die verborgene Tradition eines Buchs contains the texts that Arendt wrote between 1951/52 and 1954 in connection with the unfinished book project. We present all of the texts that Arendt authorized, along with versions of these texts preserved among her papers. In addition we provide textual variants and diplomatic transcriptions of all typescripts. Variants are shortened and slightly revised texts, versions are substantially reworked texts. The great majority of the unpublished typescripts presented here are housed among the Hannah Arendt Papers in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. This archive has been extensively digitalized, and can be accessed on line, and the editors provide references to these facsimiles. (Since all of the relevant texts are filed by the Library of Congress under the rubric of “Speeches and Writings,” we only indicate the subfolder in this category.) The apparatus provides specific references for manuscripts and typescripts only when the originals are not included in Hannah Arendt’s Papers.

In presenting edited versions of typescripts from her archival remains, the editors did not want to obscure their provisional, working character. Incomplete words, unfinished sentences, grammatical inconsistencies have been left to the competence of the reader, though a lot of such passages have been annotated by the editors.

The works collected in this volume show Arendt reading canonical texts of political theory. Many of the editions with which she worked survive in her library, held today by Bard College. We have documented her citations with these copies, reproducing her underlinings and indicating her marginal marks and notes. In addition, we provide reference to philologically authoritative editions in the original languages, as well as in English or German translation. Only for dead languages have translations into living idioms been included.


I. The Great Tradition (June 1952-July 1953)

Ideologie und Terror / Ideology and Terror
Von Hegel zu Marx
Von Hegel zu Marx Typescript A
Von Hegel zu Marx Typescript B
Von Hegel zu Marx Transcript of the Radio Broadcast
Impact of Marx Typescript
Law and Power Typescript
The Great Tradition and the Nature of Totalitarianism. New School Lectures

II. The Modern Challenge to Tradition (July-December 1953)

Karl Marx and the Tradition of Political Thought
Gauss Material Part I
Preface Typescript
II Typescript
Gauss Material Part II
V Typescript
Summary Typescript
VI Typescript

III. Eine Art Buch – A Book That Can't Be Written (January-September 1954)