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Analytical Framework of Hannah Arendt: Discursive Essay

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Analytical Framework

1 Intellectual Background of the Author

Hannah Arendt took up a degree in Philosophy at the University of Marburg. She later earned a doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Heidelberg with a doctoral dissertation, titled Love and Saint Augustine, a philosophical interpretation of three concepts of love in the work of St. Augustine. She became a full professor at Princeton and taught at other universities, such as the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley. Throughout her career, Hannah Arendt has published several books. The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Arendt’s first major work, described and analyzed major totalitarian political movements, particularly Nazism and Stalinism. Another one of her major works, The Human Condition (1958), focused on human activities in light of the vita activa (active life) in contrast with the vita contemplativa (contemplative life).

Revolving around the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963) argued that everyday, mundane and average person could commit evil and that one need not necessarily be a fanatic, a sociopath, or the second coming of the anti-Christ to do so. In the same year, Hannah Arendt published On Revolution (1963), a comparison on the American and French Revolutions. Her final work, The Life of the Mind (1971), was left unfinished before her death. The book was meant to be a trilogy based on the mental faculties of thinking, willing, and judging, but was only able to make it to the end of its second volume.

2 The Theoretical Framework

The researchers would like to make a distinction between the phrase “the right to have rights” in small letters and in quotation marks and The Right to Have Rights capitalized as a title. The phrase in small letters and in quotation marks is purely the concept of Hannah Arendt, while the phrase capitalized as a title is Arendt’s concept appropriated by the researchers into a framework used to analyze and examine the issue.

Hannah Arendt included multiple concepts in her attempt to explain her situation regarding rights and the observance and protection of these so-called rights. A common theme and underlying concept in most of Arendt’s work is that of “the right to have rights”, which are, in Hannah Arendt’s (1951) words:

Something much more fundamental than freedom and justice, which are the rights of all citizens, is at stake when belonging to a community into which one is born is no longer a matter of course, and not belonging no longer a matter of choice, or when one is placed in a situation where, unless he commits a crime, his treatment by others does not depend on what he does or does not do. This extremity, and nothing else, is the situation of people deprived of human rights. They are deprived, not of the right to freedom, but of the right to action; not of the right to think whatever they please, but of the right to an opinion … We become aware of the existence of a right to have rights (and that means to live in a framework where one is judged by one’s actions and opinions) and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only when millions of people emerge who had lost and could not regain these rights because of the new global political situation

2.1 Natality and Givenness

The concept of “the right to have rights” has certain elements that define human rights and the innate characteristics of which that belong to all persons. A primary feature is the natality aspect of these rights (Birmingham, 2006). Natality, for the most part, has two even further characteristics: givenness and the ‘demand’ for appearance (Birmingham, 2006). Givenness is defined by that of which we are born with, born into, and that of which we cannot change. The ‘demand’ for appearance, on the other hand, refers to the uniqueness or distinct singularity of every individual. The different sets of factors, elements, circumstances, attitudes, and personalities that comprise each individual; the ‘givenness’ of every human being that is not and cannot be replicated, granting us the desire to be seen (Birmingham, 2006).

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2.2 Common Responsibility

What should be a characteristic of human rights, according to Arendt (1951), is a common responsibility. Each and every person has these natural rights which belong to them long before time began. Common responsibility is a common effort among people, institutions, organizations, states, and all within rational existence to fulfill the obligations of upholding and protecting these rights (Birmingham, 2006).

Hannah Arendt, more than criticizing the limitation of citizenship, acknowledges its connection in upholding rights (Birmingham, 2006). One of the ideas that Arendt offers to help resolve these limitations is what is described as “fluid borders” (ibid). “Fluid borders” is basically making citizenship more accessible to those who are stateless or deemed stateless by softening borders or, in a sense, making borders more fluid for easier penetration (ibid). Thus, making the qualifications and attainment of citizenship more accepting and encompassing, therefore, making rights more concrete and accessible. Common responsibility defines a state as having “fluid borders” in order to accept those without a state, holding those states with “fluid borders” accountable to protect and uphold their rights (Birmingham, 2006).

2.3 Citizenship

Hannah Arendt (1951) traces the definition of rights back to citizenship and criticizes its limit in definition, albeit acknowledging its relevance and relation. Rights can only be enjoyed through the protection and upholding of a state or government, a responsibility that the state obligates itself to based on citizenship (Birmingham, 2006). Being without citizenship creates a technicality of statelessness. If a person is without citizenship, therefore stateless, there is no state holding a claim to them and neither a government catering to them to protect and uphold their rights. Thus, once a person is stripped of their citizenship, they lose their rights in the legal sense that acknowledges them, but that is not to say that they do not have the rights that are naturally and rightfully theirs as rooted in humanity (Arendt, 1951).

To better define the concept of citizenship and statelessness, Stephanie Degooyer (2018), an Arendtian scholar, further interprets Hannah Arendt’s concept of statelessness into a subcategory of “national minorities”. These “national minorities” are those who are legal citizens of the country in which they live but are hindered by systems from properly and freely exercising their rights (Degooyer, 2018). These groups of people are unable to enjoy being a member of a community in that they are supposedly stakeholders, therefore, they are without functioning citizenship. Given all this and the concept that rights are entwined with citizenship, “national minorities” are, technically, by this definition, stateless (Degooyer, 2018).

2.4 The Right to Have Rights Framework

The diagram below exhibits Hannah Arendt’s concept of “the right to have rights” as an analytical and conceptual framework. The squares and/or rectangles were used to demonstrate more concrete and definite concepts.

Individuals who are citizens of a country have rights that are protected, furthered, and upheld by their government. In the case that these rights are not, citizens are rendered and considered stateless (Degooyer, 2018). The first square within represents natality and givenness as the reconstructed basis of human rights, according to Hannah Arendt’s concept of “the right to have rights”; followed by “common responsibility” in the next rectangle, holding all actors accountable in upholding and protecting these rights; therefore, restructuring the conception of human rights as vested in citizenship, making it more encompassing and permissive; then, finally, gaining and acknowledging rights, as portrayed in the final square, and changing the human rights narrative.

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Analytical Framework of Hannah Arendt: Discursive Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from
“Analytical Framework of Hannah Arendt: Discursive Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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