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On Revolution (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – February 8, 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0140184211 ISBN-10: 014018421X

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 8, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014018421X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140184211
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,412,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


?Dr. Arendt's mind has always seemed to me something of an eighth wonder; an erudite and disciplined thinker, she still retains the ebullient intuition of a woman able always to come at things from a fresh and unusual angle. This is a study to which the thoughtful reader can return again and again for both intellectual delight and profit.?-Atlantic --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Hannnah Arendt (1906-1975) was for many years University Professor of Political Philosophy in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research and a Visiting Fellow of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She is also the author of Eichmann in Jerusalem, On Revolution, and Between Past and Future (all available from Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics).

More About the Author

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) taught political science and philosophy at The New School for Social Research in New York and the University of Chicago. Widely acclaimed as a brilliant and original thinker, her works include Eichmann in Jerusalem and The Human Condition.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Raul Brieba Melo on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is yet another deep, original and controversial contribution of Hannah Arendt to twentieth century political theory. In this book, Arendt analyzes the phenomenon of revolution by focusing almost exclusively on the great XVIIIth century revolutions, the American and the French. Arendt's deep insights allow her to compare, both on a theoretical and a practical level, the similarities and differences between the two and on how and why the American Revolution allowed the foundation of freedom while the French failed miserably in this attempt almost from the beginning. The great themes in this book are the social question (necessity) in its relation to politics (the realm of freedom) and the ever-present distinction between liberation and freedom properly speaking. Thus, constitutions and their significance, the problem of secular law in relation to its need for an Absolute with which to provide a foundation for it, the problem of hypocrisy and Robespierre's Terror, and insightful interpretations of some of the Founding Fathers' political thought (though in my opinion a bit too far reaching in her inferences thereof), are all issues with which she deals with in this book and which are rounded up in a great closing chapter. Deep, powerful, perceptive, intense: like most of Arendt's writings, a must read for anyone interested in political thought and theory.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jack Vida on January 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
On Revolution by Hannah Arendt is a philosophical study of the nature of revolutions, mainly focusing on the French and American revolutions. A big portion of her analysis involves the "Social Question" involved in revolutions. How do revolutions start? Even though her writing style can be convoluted and overly verbose at times, eventually the reader will acclimate to her not so accessible prose. This is not a light read. If you want a book to stimulate internal dialogue, however, this is the book to buy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By strega2 on October 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I first read this brilliant and classic study of the nature of revolutions as a college student in the late 1960s, when a cultural revolution was indeed occurring in the U.S. After watching the media coverage of today's angry protesters against unregulated capitalism, it was well worth re-reading.

Dr. Arendt analyzes the implications of 3 major revolutions, the American, French and Russian. The only truly successful one was the American, because it was grounded in the ideals of the Enlightenment, as well as the classical values espoused by the Founding Fathers. The French and Russian revolutions were rooted in class hatred and resentment of exploitation, a sentiment that is chillingly becoming a reality today. She herself lived through the terror of being a Jew in 1930s Germany, and barely escaped deportation to a concentration camp. Although her writing style is always disciplined, her own experience, in my opinion, colors her analysis of the French and Russian revolutions: violent uprising often leads to an even more repressive form of government that the one overthrown.

Her analysis of the success of the American Revolution, and the ensuing chaos and bloodshed that followed the French and Russian, is still among the most important political observations of the 20th century. A classic, and a prescient warning in our economically unstable time.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Baldurdash on April 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
At times threatening to deviate into academic irrelevance but always recovering to continue a highly accessable treatment of the topic of revolution in the post-nuclear age, Hannah Arendt's "On Revolution" makes the argument that the American Revolution was a successful revolution while the French Revolution was not. More importantly, the relevance of this conclusion lies in the manner in which her arguments lead her to advocate for the continuation of revolution, in a qualified sense, and the continuation of the republican form of government in the United States. Arendt fled Germany to Paris and then the United States. "On Revolution" was published in 1963.
Crucial to understanding the distinctions she made between the French revolution and the American is her attitude towards "the masses", a unique blend of bourgeois paternalism and solidly reasoned historical analysis. Few could argue with her cogent and brilliant summation of the events of the French Revolution and the ensuing "Terror". Arendt makes the case that the French Revolution was doomed from the start essentially because the revolutionary leaders, whom she depicts as sincere men of action, including Robespierre, set themselves the impossible task of alleviating the misery of the masses through political means. In contrast, the violence of the American Revolution followed the Declaration of Independance by a colonial peoples for the purpose of forming a uniquely new state. The opportunities afforded by the wealth of the new nation meant that following the Revolutionary War the United States could continue to prosper as a republic despite the perpetuation of class differences.
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Format: Paperback
This is my second read through masterful study on the nature of modern revolutions, using two very diametrically different models - the American vs. the French - to make the point that this political phenomenon is not a one-size fits all. By showing how these two political upheavals worked from the inside out, Arendt shows us how the call for radical change, depending on the circumstances, can lead to very different outcomes. In the French case, the proclamation of freedom from the tyranny of Bourbon king quickly became the violent cause of radicals dead set on answering to the suffering of the oppressed, and we all know how they ended with a counter-revolution in Thermidor of 1794. Arendt does a very capable job of analyzing the leadership of Robespierre and the Jacobin movement tried to figure out how to liberate the Paris Commune by making the enemies of France - the nobility - pay for creating serious class inequality. When they ran out of aristocrats, the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety turned on its own in its desire to satisfy a growing desire for revenge. That model has played out over and over again in the 19th and 20th century because it puts ideas and principles before people. On the other hand the American Revolution proceeded on a more peaceful route with an uprising against political tyranny based on a natural right not to be taxed without effective representation. From there a declaration of independence emerged, followed an ultimate victory over tyranny and a creation of a constitution that would protect through political checks and balances the rights of the people to fair and responsible government. In the decades that followed the United States has parlayed that revolutionary concept into a political system that for the most part is stable though boring.Read more ›
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