A Good and Dignified Life

Joke J. Hermsen


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Yale University Press
23 August 2022
ISBN: 9780300259254
160 pages

From the publisher

A timely and provocative essay about the parallel lives of Rosa Luxemburg and Hannah Arendt and their mission for a more humane society

"[A] short but moving book . . . Even better, the volume's advice is not only pragmatically political-necessary during a time of threats to democracy and mounting failures to deal with the climate crisis-but modestly uplifting."-Bill Marx, Arts Fuse

"An intimate and timely meditation on dark times, Hermsen's illuminating essay offers readers a way to think with Hannah Arendt and Rosa Luxemburg about how to build a more humane world in common."-Samantha Rose Hill, author of Hannah Arendt

Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) were critical Jewish mavericks who both suffered under violent political regimes and sought to reform systems of power. Although temporally separated by the Second World War and the rise of totalitarianism, they held in common strikingly similar convictions about freedom, human dignity, capitalism, democracy, and political commitment.

In this powerful book, Joke J. Hermsen explores the lives and works of these two remarkable thinkers and the essential hope that emboldened them in the political struggle. Luxemburg and Arendt were spurred on by a restless love for the world and an unwavering belief in the possibility of new beginnings; for them, hope was an absolute prerequisite of resistance and a counterpoint to melancholy-a defense against despair that kept them attuned to what could be.

Exploring the intertwined nature of philosophy and the active pursuit of justice, this is an urgent, courageous reminder to remain alert to the glimmers of hope in dark times.