Wine and Cheese: The Origins of Totalitarianism


April 17, 2024    
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


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2018 Avenue B, San Antonio, Texas, 78215

Event Type

The Origin of Totalitarianism
by Hanna Arendt
Presented by: Isaiah Banta and Malcolm Coon

In her books, including The Origin or Totalitarianism, On Violence, Men in Dark Times, The Human Condition and others, Hannah Arendt, a prominent 20th-century philosopher and political theorist, explored a wide range of themes, many of which continue to resonate in contemporary discussions on politics, society, and ethics. Some of the common themes in her writings include:

Totalitarianism: In “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Arendt examines the roots and mechanisms of totalitarian regimes, focusing on Nazism and Stalinism. She delves into how these systems dehumanize individuals, employ terror, and utilize ideology to achieve total control.

The Human Condition: Arendt’s work by the same name explores the vita activa (active life) and distinguishes between labor, work, and action, emphasizing the importance of public spaces for political action and the expression of freedom.

Authority and the Public Realm: Across her works, Arendt investigates the nature of authority and its erosion in the modern world, the significance of the public realm for political life, and how these spaces are constituted by speech and action.

Violence and Power: In “On Violence,” Arendt distinguishes between power and violence, suggesting that power comes from collective action and agreement among people, whereas violence is an instrumental and often desperate measure.

Personal Responsibility and Judgment: Especially in “Men in Dark Times” and her works on the Eichmann trial, Arendt explores the themes of personal responsibility, moral judgment, and the “banality of evil,” focusing on how ordinary people can become complicit in horrific acts.

Revolution and Freedom: Arendt’s reflections on revolutions, notably the American and French Revolutions, highlight her interest in how new beginnings and spaces for freedom are created through collective political action.

Regarding power, Arendt offers a nuanced and influential perspective that diverges from traditional notions equating power with violence or coercive force. For Arendt, power is fundamentally rooted in the human capacity to act in concert, arising from the collective will and cooperation of individuals working together towards a common goal. This conception of power is distinctly positive and creative, contrasting with the destructive nature of violence.

Arendt argues that power is inherent in the public realm, where individuals come together to speak and act collectively. This space of appearance, where actions and words can be seen and heard by others, is where power is generated and exercised. It is not something that one can possess individually; rather, it exists between people and comes into being when they engage with one another in pursuit of shared objectives.

In the context of personal power, Arendt suggests that it emerges not from dominion or the capacity to impose one’s will on others, but from the ability to act in ways that inspire collective action and agreement. This view implies that everyday people can harness power through organization, communication, and collaboration, leveraging their collective capacities to initiate change and achieve shared goals.

For Arendt, the most authentic expression of power is found in actions that establish and sustain the public realm as a space for freedom and deliberation. By participating in this realm, individuals not only exercise their personal agency but also contribute to the formation of a collective power that is capable of enacting significant change. In this light, personal power is closely linked to the responsibility and commitment to engage in the common world, to take part in collective endeavors that uphold and expand spaces for freedom, dialogue, and political action.

Through her exploration of power, Arendt offers a vision of politics and human action that emphasizes the potential of collaborative efforts to shape the world. Her insights encourage a rethinking of power as a positive, communal force, highlighting the capacity of everyday people to come together and accomplish great things, underscoring the importance of active participation in public life for the health and vitality of democratic societies.

Join us as we explore the realm of power, as Arendt defined it, and how it is being used today to shape our society. Learn when and how we give up our power and how we can create powerful change by working together.


Wednesday, April 17, 20, 2024
Meet and Greet 5:30 PM – 5:45 PM (US Central Time)

Presentation: 5:45 PM – 7:00 PM (US Central Time)

Meet Life Long Learners and Open Discussion:
7:00 PM – 7:30 PM (US Central Time)

WHERE (either):

In Person
Wittigs Building
2018 Ave B, Suite 200, San Antonio, Texas

5:45 PM – 7:00 PM (US Central Time)
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