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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe AmericasWhat Hannah Arendt Would Do About Trump’s Former Bureaucrats

What Hannah Arendt Would Do About Trump’s Former Bureaucrats

Authors: Kathryn Brackney, Terence Renaud 

Affiliation: Harvard University, Yale University

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: December 23, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Argument

Word Count:  1673


Keywords: USA, Trump, Bureaucratic Politics, Malfeasance, Hannah Arendt


The authors elaborate on Hannah Arendt’s key statements by reflecting upon Trump and his party’s refusal to accept the election results as well as how the Trump administration dealt with COVID-19. They mention the malfeasance of the Trump administration raises the question, What will happen to his officials who were carrying out their duties “further down the bureaucratic ladder?”  The German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt, a survivor of the Nazi Regime, provides an explanation of how “just following orders” and criminal acts are justified and facilitated by bureaucratic apparatuses, fanatical leaders, and mass consent at the state level. Arendt argues that government officials must be held accountable for their complicity in power abuses and state crimes. Her statements are mainly the result of her personal experiences and observations as a journalist of the 1961 trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann, a former official of the Nazi Regime who was sentenced to death. Her essay “Truth and Politics” sheds light into how “organized lying” can serve as a tool to reshape the structure of society. Cynicism, defined in the argument as “an absolute refusal to believe in the truth of anything, no matter how well this truth may be established,” according to Hannah Arendt is the main symptom of a “broken democracy.” For Arendt, the only way democracy can survive depends on the independence of the judiciary and other public institutions, whose task it is to search for information with a certain degree of being free from political pressure.  The authors recommend insisting on Arendt’s demand—to hold bureaucrats accountable, to prosecute Trump officials, without losing time, and finally to investigate the forces that enabled Trumpism. 

By: Dilek Yücel, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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