Hannah Arendt: On Revolution
What is revolution? Is there a distinction between civil disobedience, violent protest, and revolutionary action? What does it mean to found a state? Are foundings always bloody and violent? When Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution appeared in 1963, it was overshadowed by the simultaneous publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem. Inspired by a conference on “The United States and the Revolutionary Spirit” at Princeton University in the spring of 1959 where Fidel Castro gave the keynote address, On Revolution offers a comparative study of the French and American revolutions. Arendt undertook her study during a time when revolutions had become regular occurrences in the 20th century. Revolutions, she argued, are a sign of political decay, evidencing the breakdown of authority and loss of tradition. They mark a rupture and usher something new into the world.
In this course we will survey Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution. What is the social question? Did the French Revolution fail? Did the American revolution succeed? Is it possible to found stable political institutions? And can the spirit of revolution be embodied in political institutions? Alongside On Revolution, we will also look at Arendt’s essay “On Violence”, her interview, “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution”, and her 1967 discussion on “The Legitimacy of Violence” with Noam Chomsky, Conor Cruise O’Brien and Robert Lowell, alongside her lecture material for courses she taught on revolution. Engaging Arendt’s text we’ll also explore some secondary critiques of her work on freedom, revolution and violence.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
November 18 — December 16, 2021
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Thursday, November 25th.
Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.