Arendt and the Legitimate Expectation for Hospitality and Membership Today

Michael D. Weinman
  • Moral Philosophy and Politics, January 2017, De Gruyter
  • DOI: 10.1515/mopp-2016-0043

Hannah Arendt and the Right to Seek Refuge Today

What is it about?

Since the second world war (and further back, since the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789 France), the right to seek refuge has been based on an abstract and universal conception of human rights, and then inscribed in legal agreements between and among states--often through conventions debated at the United Nations and then signed by member states of that body. Hannah Arendt recognized, right at the time that the United Nations was beginning to exist and function, that this approach is fundamentally flawed. This essay describes her argument and expands on it with reference to today's crisis.

Why is it important?

It is widely agreed that the biggest problem facing liberal democracies today, especially in Europe, is the constant and ever-increasing flow of persons from regions suffering from economic and environmental deprivation, as well as political and economic instability, to the wealthier nations of North America and Europe. This essay attempts to rethink the grounds upon which citizens of those nations might see themselves obligated to offer a safe haven and a chance to enjoy the benefits of living together (for a time at least).


Michael Weinman (Author)
Bard College Berlin

This essay should be interesting and could be helpful for anyone who is troubled by the numerous "this can't be happening" moments we have seen in recent years and right up to the immediate present--boats sitting in the Mediterranean filled with hundreds of families because there is no harbor that will receive them; rafts and other small inflatable instruments that capsize, leaving dozens stranded, many of who drown at see; families held in tent cities near the US-Mexico border in Texas. In response to these events, I try to frame an alternative approach to morally and legally making the case for a more welcoming approach to refuge and asylum seekers.

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