At a moment when many suggest that the end of an era has been reached, and when struggles against climate change, exploitation, neocolonialism, patriarchy, and racism proliferate, what role can Arendt’s account of political beginnings play in the conceptualization of a new time? Arendt has been celebrated as a key theorist of politics, freedom, and judgement. Yet she has also been questioned when it comes to her understanding of the social question, the public-private divide, or the persistence of structures of systemic injustice. Is her work then still timely for understanding how to begin anew?
This conference will test the wide influence and perseverance, the attraction but also the criticism, of Arendt’s thought by recentering her approach to political beginnings. Arendt’s attempts to understand political beginnings animate her work. From her doctoral dissertation on Augustine to her posthumous book, The Life of the Mind, beginnings are omnipresent in her oeuvre. Conceiving Arendt’s attempts as an open legacy, digging up the plurality and worldliness, the tragic and agonistic character of beginnings, the conference aims to investigate how and why political beginnings are set off ‘not by the strength of one architect but by the combined power of the many’.