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Unexpected Support for European Integration: Memory, Rupture, and Totalitarianism in Arendt's Political Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2014


Collective memory is an important source of social stability, allowing human beings and political communities to integrate new experiences into existing narrative frameworks. In addition to sustaining individual and group identities, remembrance can also maintain cycles of hatred. Building on Arendt's political theory, I present an alternative interpretation of memory as a resource for political change following historical ruptures. This constructive reading focuses on the ability of communities to create new futures out of the shattered pieces of the past. For Arendt, the experience of totalitarianism was a caesura that made nationalist histories, and the nation-state that came with these interpretations of the past, untenable. Following such breaks, communities must reconstruct the past into new narratives. Arendt's unexpected early support for European integration—despite its supranational, technocratic, and economistic qualities—is an example of how memory can function as a resource for political transformation in the aftermath of historical ruptures.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 2014 

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71 The High Authority was a sticking point for a number of postwar intellectuals. For instance, Alexandre Kojève gave up his career as a philosopher to take up a position at the French Ministry of Economic Affairs. From there, he wrote “memorandum after memorandum against supranationality and the High Authority” (Parsons, Craig, A Certain Idea of Europe [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003], 58Google Scholar).

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