Workshop March 30-31, 2018


Hannah Arendt on the Limits of the Permissible: Public Sphere, Pluralism and Responsibility”

This workshop will be part of the XXV symposium ‘Paths of Russia’, held on March 30-31, 2018 at Moscow School for Social and Economic Sciences.

Workshop is supported by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, Russia

Hannah Arendt is one of the most vigorous advocates of public politics and agonistic debate among contemporary political philosophers. However, her position is challenged by the recent transformations of democracy that make us reconsider the limits of political discussion. With both traditional and new media undergoing a radical transformation, it becomes increasingly common to deny political opponents the moral right for justifying their position in a public debate. This pattern can be observed across political spectrum and also across borders: while in some places of the world many refuse to debate with the rising extreme right, in other countries it is the liberals who are considered traitors and therefore excluded from public discussion. The outcome is a remarkable segmentation of public sphere and coexistence of communities holding incompatible views of reality, as reflected in widespread concerns with ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truths’.

Arendt’s thought seems to be one of the promising points to access the problem of who can and who cannot be admitted to the public forum. While arguing for cultivation of plurality as political virtue, she nevertheless calls for responsible politics that implies protecting the public sphere. Moreover, Arendt’s own positions have been many times criticized for going beyond admissible, from her nuanced reflection on Holocaust to alleged contamination by Nazi philosophy. The lessons from Arendt’s controversial biography for present-day politics are still to be drawn.

This workshop explores how Arendt’s political concepts can be used in establishing the justified limits for public discussion and promoting public politics today. How politics can benefit from conflict and control it? Are there any positions and ideologies to be disqualified from public debate? In which ways individuals are responsible for upholding pluralism? What can Arendt’s vision of the political for twentieth century tell about the challenges politics faces nowadays?

Workshop organizers:

Greg Yudin (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences) –

Viktor Kaploun (Smolny College/European University at Saint-Petersburg) –