Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
Modern Languages and Literatures
Robert S. Leventhal
This thesis argues for a rapprochement between Hannah Arendt's novel theory of totalitarianism and psychoanalysis. Julia Kristeva has recently suggested that Arendt's conceptualization of politics comes close at points to delivering a theory of the political conscious and unconscious. However, what has received little to no attention from scholars is that Arendt's own analysis of the subterranean pathologies which she claims to necessitate totalitarianism -- diminishing human agency and political freedom; the paradox that as mass culture and capitalist consumption abound, we are also less equipped to control human action -- indeed closely remind one of the very mechanisms proposed by psychoanalysis. However, she never discussed this explicitly and certainly never cited psychoanalytic tools in her work. By examining the specific moments of Arendt's theory which address the intersection of individual psychic life and the oftentimes conflictual world of appearances, we will be able to answer the fundamental question left unanswered by Arendt herself: how does one explain the psychic transformation of the subject to the extent that he readily desired and even enjoyed his role in the active constitution of the fascist project? By reading Arendt's political thought alongside psychoanalytic writers, such as Freud, Lyotard, Lacan, Adorno, and Kristeva, we find that the enjoyment and desire to have oneself recognized through action and speech assumed a dramatically different form within totalitarianism. Instead of the enjoyment of human freedom in politics, totalitarianism sprang from the fantastical enjoyment of human superfluousness and objectification from within th"closed-circuit" totalitarian imaginary.
Peverall, Judson R., "The Political Unconscious of Hannah Arendt: An Encounter with Psychoanalysis" (2013). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 587.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.