John LeJeune   1
  • 1 Georgia Southwestern State University, Georgia Southwestern State University Drive, 800, Americus, GA 31709

Hannah Arendt and the Dark Public Sphere

2018, vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 47–69 [issue contents]
Hannah Arendt once described “dark times” as characterized by “‘credibility gaps’ and ‘invisible government,’ by speech that does not disclose what is but sweeps it under the carpet, by exhortations, moral and otherwise, that, under the pretext of up-holding old truths, degrade all truth to meaningless triviality.” This paper argues that as Western democracies experience condi-tions that echo Arendt’s twentieth century assessment — among these are the death of truth, the decline of civility, and the dearth of authenticity in the public sphere — Arendt’s work helps us better understand two sources of this modern crisis. First is the blurring of truth and opinion in contemporary political discourse; second is the blurring of the public and private realms made possible by the coercive intermediation of the social. An acute danger of these circumstances is the lure of demagogues and extreme ideologies when the words and deeds of the public realm — either because they are not believed, or because they have been reduced to mere image-making — increasingly lack meaning, integrity, and spontaneity. A second danger is the erosion of faith in the free press (and with it our common world and basic facts) when the press itself, reacting to its own sense of darkness, undermines its role of truthteller by assuming the role of political actor. In the end I suggest that underlying these several acute issues of democracy lies a more basic tension in the public sphere centered on an Arendtian notion of “freedom of opinion.”
Citation: LeJeune J. (2018) Khanna Arendt i «temnaya» publichnaya sfera [Hannah Arendt and the Dark Public Sphere]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 17, no 4, pp. 47-69
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