Hannah Arendt as a Theorist of International Criminal Law

International Criminal Law Review, 2011

Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-30

31 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2011

See all articles by David Luban

David Luban

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: March 28, 2011


This paper examines Hannah Arendt's contributions as a theorist of international criminal law. It draws mostly on Eichmann in Jerusalem, particularly its epilogue, but also on Arendt's correspondence, her writings from the 1940s on Jewish politics, and portions of The Human Condition and her essays. The paper focuses on four issues: (1) Arendt's conception of international crimes as universal offenses against humanity, and the implications she draws for theories of criminal jurisdiction; (2) her "performative" theory of group identity as acts of political affiliation and disaffiliation, from which follows a radically different account of the crime of genocide than that of Raphael Lemkin; (3) the "banality of evil," and its relation to legal conceptions of mens rea; and (4) her ultimately inconclusive assessment of law's capacity to confront the radically unprecedented crimes of regimes that are themselves criminal, and which systematically invert the values necessary to distinguish legal rules from exceptions. The essay was written for a symposium on women and international criminal law in honor of Judge Patricia Wald.

Keywords: Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975, criminal law, international law

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K14, K33

Suggested Citation

Luban, David, Hannah Arendt as a Theorist of International Criminal Law (March 28, 2011). International Criminal Law Review, 2011; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1797780

David Luban (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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