25 Hannah Arendt Quotes About Humanity and Power

Hannah Arendt was a German-born American philosopher and one of the greatest thinkers in the 20th century.

Here are our favorite Hannah Arendt quotes.

Born in Germany to a Jewish family in 1906, Arendt moved to Prussia as a toddler so that her father’s syphilis could be treated.

Unfortunately, he died when she was six.

Arendt was raised by her mother who was an avid supporter of the Social Democrats and gave Arendt her first taste of political philosophy.

Arendt studied philosophical writing in college.

As Europe began to grow with more anti-Jewish discrimination in the 1930s, Arendt moved often.

Living in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland before settling in Paris.

In 1941, after Germany invaded France, Arendt fled to New York City where she would stay for the rest of her life.

Enjoy these Hannah Arendt quotes and sayings!

Don’t forget to also check out these Elie Wiesel quotes celebrating the human spirit.

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration.

Our inspirational quotes category page has all of our motivational quotes for all the different areas of life.

Hannah Arendt quotes about freedom

1. “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.” — Hannah Arendt

2. “To be free in an age like ours, one must be in a position of authority. That in itself would be enough to make me ambitious.” — Hannah Arendt

3. “Economic growth may one day turn out to be a curse rather than a good, and under no conditions can it either lead into freedom or constitute a proof for its existence.” — Hannah Arendt

4. “No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny.” — Hannah Arendt

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5. “Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.” — Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt quotes on totalitarianism and politics

6. “Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.” — Hannah Arendt

7. “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.” — Hannah Arendt

8. “The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.” — Hannah Arendt

9. “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.” — Hannah Arendt

10. “Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.” — Hannah Arendt

11. “Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being.” — Hannah Arendt

12. “Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and then they can pick it up.” — Hannah Arendt

13. “Our tradition of political thought had its definite beginning in the teachings of Plato and Aristotle. I believe it came to a no less definite end in the theories of Karl Marx.” — Hannah Arendt

14. “The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade.” — Hannah Arendt

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15. “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance.” — Hannah Arendt

16. “The more dubious and uncertain an instrument violence has become in international relations, the more it has gained in reputation and appeal in domestic affairs, specifically in the matter of revolution.” — Hannah Arendt

17. “Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.” — Hannah Arendt

18. “In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.” — Hannah Arendt

19. “The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” — Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt quotes about humanity

20. “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” — Hannah Arendt

21. “Total loyalty is possible only when fidelity is emptied of all concrete content, from which changes of mind might naturally arise.” — Hannah Arendt

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22. “We have almost succeeded in leveling all human activities to the common denominator of securing the necessities of life and providing for their abundance.” — Hannah Arendt

23. “It is my contention that civil disobediences are nothing but the latest form of voluntary association and that they are thus quite in tune with the oldest traditions of the country.” — Hannah Arendt

24. “Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.” — Hannah Arendt

25. “It is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past.” — Hannah Arendt

What did you learn from these Hannah Arendt quotes?

After moving to New York during World War II, Arendt began to gain a reputation as a philosophical writer.

She published works that ranged in a variety of topics, but her most common themes revolved around politics, the nature of power and evil, and totalitarianism.

She has been commemorated for her work in many ways, including having the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thinking named after her and has had many street names and schools use her namesake.

Arendt died of a heart attack at the age of 69, leaving her final work, The Life of the Mind unfinished.

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