Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If You Use a Screen Reader

This content is available through Read Online (Free) program, which relies on page scans. Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.

Identifying the Unprecedented: Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, and the Critique of Sociology

Peter Baehr
American Sociological Review
Vol. 67, No. 6 (Dec., 2002), pp. 804-831
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088971
Page Count: 28
  • Read Online (Free)
  • Download ($14.00)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Identifying the Unprecedented: Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, and the Critique of Sociology
Preview not available

Abstract

How does one identify a phenomenon as radically new or "unprecedented"? Do, in fact, "unprecedented" phenomena exist at all, as presumably some degree of continuity marks every state of affairs? If however, the idea of continuity is taken too far, are we not at risk of domesticating a radical tendency by conceptually transmuting it into something that is already known? These questions are of pressing importance since September 11th, as commentators warn that America and its allies face radically new enemies in the guise of "rogue" states, movements, and terrorist organizations. Yet sociology has had to grapple with similar issues before. In the 1930s and 1940s, the consolidation of fascist and Nazi movements also taxed sociological understanding and competence to the maximum. This article describes aspects of American sociology's response to that earlier challenge, contrasting it with the approach of Hannah Arendt, who condemned the discipline for systematically failing to appreciate the uniqueness, enormity, and gravity of the events that assailed the epoch. Arendt's critique of sociological methods is followed by a case study-Theodore Abel's investigation into National Socialism-that lends some credence to her misgivings. The work of other sociologists of this period-notably, Talcott Parsons's-is also briefly considered. The concluding section of the paper examines the theoretical problems involved in seeking to conceptualize an "unprecedented" event (movement, institution).

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
804
    804
  • Thumbnail: Page 
805
    805
  • Thumbnail: Page 
806
    806
  • Thumbnail: Page 
807
    807
  • Thumbnail: Page 
808
    808
  • Thumbnail: Page 
809
    809
  • Thumbnail: Page 
810
    810
  • Thumbnail: Page 
811
    811
  • Thumbnail: Page 
812
    812
  • Thumbnail: Page 
813
    813
  • Thumbnail: Page 
814
    814
  • Thumbnail: Page 
815
    815
  • Thumbnail: Page 
816
    816
  • Thumbnail: Page 
817
    817
  • Thumbnail: Page 
818
    818
  • Thumbnail: Page 
819
    819
  • Thumbnail: Page 
820
    820
  • Thumbnail: Page 
821
    821
  • Thumbnail: Page 
822
    822
  • Thumbnail: Page 
823
    823
  • Thumbnail: Page 
824
    824
  • Thumbnail: Page 
825
    825
  • Thumbnail: Page 
826
    826
  • Thumbnail: Page 
827
    827
  • Thumbnail: Page 
828
    828
  • Thumbnail: Page 
829
    829
  • Thumbnail: Page 
830
    830
  • Thumbnail: Page 
831
    831