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On Revolution (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140184211
ISBN-10: 014018421X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

?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 an alternate Paperback 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).
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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 (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,891,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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 Verified Purchase
Arendt asks why the US Revolution was so successful compared to the French Revolution and many subsequent revolutions. To answer this question she examines both the contrasting historical experiences of the two countries and how their leaders drew on different aspects of Enlightenment philosophy to formulate and justify their actions.

In the American case the people were more or less equal and free by virtue of landholdings. In addition they had extensive experience in self government from township councils on up to the colonial legislatures. This all began with the most primordial of social contracts, the Mayflower Compact, the ultimate forerunner of the US Constitution. The most influential philosopher for the “Founding Fathers” was Montesquieu, who emphasized checks and balances to create a stable and enduring government, one that could not be taken over and ruined by one faction or another.

In contrast the French experience was entirely top-down, with the vast majority of people living in poverty and misery as part of the “third estate” -- subject to control and exploitation by the aristocratic elites of the “first estate”. The “people” or “masses” were desperate for liberation from their misery, a situation that Arendt calls the “social question” or a matter of “historical necessity”. Yet they did not know how to govern themselves or better their economic condition in the short run. In today’s terminology, “the system was totally rigged against them”. They could break out of their prison-like condition after the storming of the Bastille, but then what?

The self-appointed leaders of the French Revolution, like Robespierre, were equally at a loss when it came to practical actions.
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