Hannah Arendt on Revolution

Albrecht Wellmer

in Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780520220560
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923669 | DOI:
Hannah Arendt on Revolution

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In her essay On Revolution, Hannah Arendt has tried to settle accounts with both the liberal-democratic and the Marxist traditions, that is, with the two dominant traditions of modern political thought that, in one way or the other, can be traced back to the European Enlightenment. Arendt's basic thesis is that both liberal democrats and Marxists have misunderstood the drama of modern revolutions because they have not understood that what was actually revolutionary in modern revolutions was the repeatedly failed attempt of a “constitutio libertatis” — the attempt to establish a political space of public freedom in which people as free and equal citizens would take their common concerns into their own hands. Both the liberals and the Marxists equally harbored a conception of the political according to which the final goal of politics would be something beyond politics — the unencumbered pursuit of private happiness, the realization of social justice, or the free association of the producers in a classless society. Arendt's critique of Marxist politics has already become a locus classicus and requires no further justification. Her critique of liberal and social democracy in modern industrial societies seems more provocative from a present point of view. This chapter raises the question of whether the provocation is still a genuine one.

Keywords: liberal democrats; Marxists; modern revolutions; freedom; politics; social democracy; liberal democracy

Chapter.  5667 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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