Political itineraries and anarchic cosmopolitanism in the thought of Hannah Arendt

Inquiry 47 (1):20 – 41 (2004)
In this paper, I argue that Arendt's understanding of freedom should be examined independently of the search for good political institutions because it is related to freedom of movement and has a transnational meaning. Although she does not say it explicitly, Arendt establishes a correlation between political identities and territorial moves: She analyzes regimes in relation to their treatment of lands and borders, that is, specific geographic movements. I call this correlation a political itinerary. My aim is to show genealogically that her elaboration on the regimes of ancient, modern, and 'dark' times is supported by such a correlation. I read Arendt in light of the current clash between an amorphous global political identity (and 'new' international order) and the renewal of nationalisms. I show that, for Arendt, the world is divided by necessary frontiers - territorial borders and identity frames - and that the political consists precisely of the effort to transgress them. Arendt never proposed a restoration of authority but, on the contrary, a worldwide anarchic (that is, based on no predetermined rule) politics of de-localization and re-localization; in her terms, a politics of free movement of founded identities, a cosmopolitanism, which, nevertheless, would have nothing to do with global sovereignty.
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DOI 10.1080/00201740310004396
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