Speaking Other Times : Hannah Arendt and the Temporality of Politics

Detta är en avhandling från Uppsala : Department of Literature

Sammanfattning: Political rhetoric frequently utilizes imaginaries of time. Ideas of an eternally sanctioned principle, a historical tradition, a future to come, or a radical change in the present are all part of the temporal toolkit of political rhetoric. The role of these imaginaries has provoked growing interest in rhetorical and political theory, and this thesis contributes to this line of scholarship by offering the first comprehensive examination of political temporalities in the works of Hannah Arendt. In Arendt’s political thought, the temporal imaginaries differ depending on forms of government, and each chapter of the thesis addresses, in turn: tyranny as depending on an eternal principle introduced into contingent worldly time; authority as legitimized by reiterations of tradition; totalitarianism as justified by a trans-historical and ever-changing future; and finally, politics as empowered by the present’s antagonistic negotiations with past memories and future anticipations. Important observations are that the temporal imaginaries of tyranny, authority, and totalitarianism facilitate rhetorical practices that utilize force, violence, hierarchy, and domination. And, in contrast, that the temporalities of politics enable antagonistic speech, action, and formation of public opinion through judgment. The thesis thus provides a systematic account of the political imaginary of eternity, past, future, and present in the thought of Arendt, and contributes to conceptual development in the field of Arendtian scholarship, rhetorical theory, and political temporalities.The study concludes that each examined temporal imaginary is comprised of plural and intersecting temporal logics where, for example, eternal principles can utilize the futurity of threat, memories of the past can spark revolutions, and anticipations of the future can stabilize the present. By mobilizing the concept of anachronism, the thesis argues that these conflicting temporal intersections carry persuasive and performative potential. In Arendt’s discussions of temporality, power, and modes of rhetorical expression, certain anachronistic imaginaries take form that carry freedom-enabling potential: by speaking other times, politics can mobilize the power to realize freedom.

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