Hannah Arendt: Prophet for our Time

by James M. Campbell

Jim Campbell is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and was pastor of two Presbyterian churches in the southwestern side of Detroit, then became executive director of the Detroit Industrial Mission.

Published by the Detroit Industrial Mission, 1970. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) The author summarizes the thoughts of Hannah Arendt, then uses them as a framework to ask whether America is slipping into a new kind of totalitarianism.


  • Introduction Hanna Arendt celebrates revolution as perhaps the grandest example of human action, and then she points out where it invariably goes wrong. By a combination of ideology and terror, elitist governments set out systematically to destroy a citizenry’s capacity for action.
  • Chapter 1: The Meaning of Action Action is the key to maintaining life and humanity. By action, Arendt means a a group process, involving many men, a process which is the beginning of something new, the answer to futility, which results in the establishment or re-establishment of the public good.
  • Chapter 2: Revolution — Action’s Finest Hour To answer social questions is not to answer political questions. To end human poverty and privation and organize an effective flow of goods and services is a major challenge, a must, but it is not the same as establishing freedom. The revolution that establishes the opportunity and structures for freedom fulfills its reason for being.
  • Chapter 3: Totalitarianism: The Annihilation of Action Totalitarianism (organized loneliness) threatens to ravage the world as we know it, even before a new beginning has had time to assert itself. Arendt's faith is in the capacity of man yet to make that new beginning -- to act, a capacity guaranteed by each new birth.
  • Chapter 4: Some Implications We have action, freedom, rebellion, civil liberties flowing in our national veins. We also have racism, imperialism, vigilanteeism, and violence. The question is, which heritage will prevail in the decade ahead?