Hannah Arendt's On Revolution By Hannah Arendt

654 Words3 Pages
In her book On Revolution, Hannah Arendt carefully characterizes a revolution, giving the exact classifications that are required of an event for it to be revolutionary. She also asserts exactly how a revolution is a beginning, using the American Revolution as an example. Through her explanation of how a revolution is a beginning, she explains how the idea of attempting to date a revolution is paradoxical. One cannot pick just any event and call it revolutionary. According to Arendt, “only where change occurs in the sense of a new beginning, where violence is used to constitute an altogether different form of government, to bring about the formation of a new body politic, where the liberation from oppression aims at least at the constitution of freedom can we speak of revolution” (25). Meaning that only events that fulfill those stipulations can be considered revolutionary. Arendt also states, quoting Condorcet, “‘the world ‘revolutionary’ can be applied only to revolutions whose aim is freedom’” (19). An event where mere changes are made cannot be considered revolutionary. Neither can a restoration, which Arendt makes sure to clarify. Restorations simply bring an order back to its original state. A revolution brings about something all together new; it does not just fix what is broken. In order to prove her theory that a revolution is a new beginning, Arendt uses the American Revolution as an example. She claims the settlers of the new world escaped the burden of kings claiming the their rule by divine right, in that they formed and entirely new ‘civil bodies politic’ and created something that had never existed before—a new beginning (Arendt 186). Although the Americans did turn to Athens and ancient Rome when they began their ... ... middle of paper ... ...within this gap of historical time (197-198). Therefore, it is paradoxical to attempt to date a revolution. If revolution were in a gap of historical time, then attempting to date it would be attempting the impossible (Arendt 198). In conclusion, according to Arendt, events are only revolutionary if they meet certain qualifications, such as the aim for freedom of oppression and the bringing about something entirely new form of government. Arendt believes that a revolution is a new beginning in that it is something that it creates something that has never been done before. Even when revolutions bring back ideas from antiquity, they still create their own new beginning, as they have different circumstances. Finally, Arendt demonstrates the paradox of dating a revolution when the simple fact of being a revolution means that the events occurred in a historical time gap
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