Afterword
[R]ace is, politically speaking, not the beginning of humanity but its end, n
origin of peoples but their decay, not the natural birth of man but his unn
death.—hannah arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Forevery image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of i
cernsthreatenstodisappear.—walter benjamin, ‘‘ThesesonthePhiloso
History’’1
TheWest’s Subterranean Stream
Heth
annah arendt believed that the nineteenth-century
nial world had set the precedent for the savagery of the t
century—that it was the source of theWest’s ‘‘subterr
stream’’ of terror and violence that was to erupt in fascism.Colonia
governing principles—race thinking and bureaucratic rule—trigger
West’s most barbaric acts and presaged, she argued, the extraordina
lief that one nation was destined to command the world as a maste
Arendt’s model was the nineteenth-century imperialism of Englan
France, but the globe had experienced Europe’s barbarous civilizin
sionsnearlythreecenturiesbefore,whenSpainwasattheContinent’
guard of state-making and colonialism. Life in the seventeenth ce
wasverydifferentfromlifeinthenineteenth,ofcourse;butitwasS
colonial efforts, not northern Europe’s, that initiated the ‘‘civilizing
of bureaucracy and race thinking that Arendt found so damning.
Our sense of modernity changes once we trace its elementary
back from the nineteenth century to the
seventeenth.2
We can then
howessentialcolonialism,racethinking,andbureaucracyhavebeen
makingofthemodernworld;andwecanaskourselveswhywehave
so blind.
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2004.8.17
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MODERN
INQUISITIONS
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