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Research Unit for the History of Political and Economic Ideas


The focus of the research unit is on the development and manifestation of political and economic thought both historically and at present. With a starting point in intellectual history the social, historical, ideological, scientific etc. contexts and developments. One of the primary concerns of the research unit is to incorporate and discuss various analytical tools and approaches to the study of political and economic ideas in motion. Of particular interest is the exploration of analytical resources developed outside classical intellectual history, for instance in literary theory, social history, sociology etc. and the discussion and experimentation of applying these resources in an intellectual history analysis.

Unit Coordinator

Events Fall 2021

Book panel: Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin: Freedom, Politics and Humanity(Princeton University Press, 2021) 

by Kei Hiruta, AIAS Fellow and author of the book

Thu 04 Nov at 15:00 — 16:30

Nobel Parken, Room 1483-228, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, 8000 Aarhus C

AIAS Fellow Kei Hiruta will discuss his new book Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin with panelists Anders Berg-Sørensen (Political Science, University of Copenhagen) and Zoltán Gábor Szűcs (Center for Social Sciences, Budapest).   

This book panel will take place at Building 1483, Nobelparken, Aarhus University. All are welcome to join.  

About the book 

Two of the most iconic thinkers of the twentieth century, Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) and Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) fundamentally disagreed on central issues in politics, history and philosophy. In spite of their overlapping lives and experiences as Jewish émigré intellectuals, Berlin disliked Arendt intensely, saying that she represented “everything that I detest most,” while Arendt met Berlin’s hostility with indifference and suspicion. Written in a lively style, and filled with drama, tragedy and passion, Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin tells, for the first time, the full story of the fraught relationship between these towering figures, and shows how their profoundly different views continue to offer important lessons for political thought today. 

Drawing on a wealth of new archival material, Kei Hiruta traces the Arendt–Berlin conflict, from their first meeting in wartime New York through their widening intellectual chasm during the 1950s, the controversy over Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem, their final missed opportunity to engage with each other at a 1967 conference and Berlin’s continuing animosity toward Arendt after her death. Hiruta blends political philosophy and intellectual history to examine key issues that simultaneously connected and divided Arendt and Berlin, including the nature of totalitarianism, evil and the Holocaust, human agency and moral responsibility, Zionism, American democracy, British imperialism and the Hungarian Revolution. But, most of all, Arendt and Berlin disagreed over a question that goes to the heart of the human condition: what does it mean to be free?  

Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin (Princeton University Press, 2021) by Kei Hiruta. 

AIAS & Philosophy and History of Ideas joint seminar: Zoltán Gábor Szűcs 


5 November 2021 at 11am–12.15pm 

Nobel Parken, Room 1453-415, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, 8000 Aarhus C 


Zoltán Gábor Szűcs (Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest) will present a paper on ‘The challenge of living in and making sense of illiberal regimes: A normative political theoretical enterprise’ on 5 November 2021 at Nobel Parken, Room 1453-415, at 11am–12.15pm.  


Registration is required. If you could like to receive the pre-circulated paper and attend the event, please contact AIAS fellow Kei Hirutakei.hiruta@aias.au.dk 


This event is co-hosted by AIAS and the Research Unit for the History of Political and Economic Ideas at the Department of Philosophy & History of Ideas and will take place at Building 1453, Nobelparken, Aarhus University. 


Paper abstract 

Normative political theory routinely addresses the examples of injustice and unfreedom within tolerably just and free polities as well as the examples of injustice and unfreedom within utterly unjust and unfree polities but it seems to largely overlook the particular political-ethical challenges of living in polities that are tolerably unjust and unfree like contemporary illiberal regimes. Such regimes maintain a level of political and media pluralism and electoral competition, an entire democratic facade, lack massive political violence, avoid large-scale electoral fraud while systematically skewing the political playfield to their advantage. People who live in such regimes are confronted with political-ethical challenges significantly different both from those of people who live in liberal democracies and the political-ethical challenges of people living in fully authoritarian regimes. In my presentation, I will examine some key elements of this experience and the difficulties of examining it in terms of normative political theory, especially for one who oneself lives in such a regime.'  


About the speaker 

Zoltán Gábor Szűcs is a research fellow at Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest and he teaches at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest as a senior lecturer. He is a political theorist interested in political ethics (especially but not exclusively in the context of unfree polities), the theory of political obligation, and the general questions of political realism. He published about Aristotle's regime theory, Tacitus' understanding of political failure, political obligation in illiberal regimes, the a-theoretical core of political realism. A further paper of his about philosophical anarchism has been currently accepted in CRISPP. His presentation will be about his current book project entitled Political ethics in illiberal regimes. The first draft of the book manuscript has been recently submitted to the publisher.