The Web of Fear

by Harry on October 11, 2013

has been found! And in pretty good shape by the looks of it. Fantastic news.

The History of Fear, Part 4

by Corey Robin on October 11, 2013

Today, in part 4 of my series on the intellectual history of fear, I turn to Hannah Arendt’s theory of total terror, which she developed in The Origins of Totalitarianism—and then completely overhauled in Eichmann in Jerusalem. As I make clear in my book, I’m more partial to Eichmann than to Origins. But Origins has been the more influential text, at least until recently, and so I deal with it here.

The Origins of Totalitarianism is a problematic though fascinating book (the second part, on imperialism, is especially wonderful). One of the reasons it was able to gain such traction in the twentieth century is that it managed to meld Montesquieu’s theory of despotic terror with Tocqueville’s theory of democratic anxiety. It became the definitive statement of the Cold War in part because it took these received treatments of Montesquieu and Tocqueville and mobilized them to such dramatic effect. (One of the reasons, as I also argue in the book, that Eichmann provoked such outrage was that it undermined these received treatments by reviving ways of thinking about fear that we saw in Hobbes and that had been steadily abandoned during the 18th and 19th centuries.)

But, again, if you want to get the whole picture, buy the book.

• • • • •

Mistress, I dug upon your grave

To bury a bone, in case

I should be hungry near this spot

When passing on my daily trot.

I am sorry, but I quite forgot

It was your resting-place.

—Thomas Hardy

It was a sign of his good fortune—and terrible destiny—that Nikolai Bukharin was pursued throughout his short career by characters from the Old Testament. Among the youngest of the “Old Bolsheviks,” Bukharin was, in Lenin’s words, “the favorite of the whole party.” A dissident economist and accomplished critic, this impish revolutionary, standing just over five feet, charmed everyone. Even Stalin. The two men had pet names for each other, their families socialized together, and Stalin had Bukharin stay at his country house during long stretches of the Russian summer. So beloved throughout the party was Bukharin that he was called the “Benjamin” of the Bolsheviks. If Trotsky was Joseph, the literary seer and visionary organizer whose arrogance aroused his brothers’ envy, Bukharin was undoubtedly the cherished baby of the family. [click to continue…]