On Revolution Essay

1419 words - 6 pages

On Revolution, a book Hannah Arendt published in 1963, after Eichmann’s trial. The book didn’t gain a lot of popularity at first due to the remarkable Eichmann in Jerusalem notability. On Revolution is a work of dichotomies. Arendt compared and differentiated between the French and the American Revolution. How one was successful and how the other was less successful according to her perspectives. To begin with, Arendt defines revolution as a new beginning, a novelty, an irresistible force, something that is unprecedented that cannot be controlled. She also stressed further more on this point that a revolution should have the ability to create something new that would result in more space of ...view middle of the document...

In the French model, the idea of poverty was one of the motivating factors of the revolution. People were in acute misery and poverty. They had a sense of “I want” and according to Arendt this is not a good cause to undertake a revolution. Arendt saw the material motives in the French Revolution and believes those motives eventually led them to tyranny.
Arendt proceeded to view the American Revolution as idealistic. Her approach was also criticized by Americans due to the fact that she neglected certain factors in the revolution. Especially the role of religion in the American Revolution that Arendt failed to emphasize in her book. Religion plays a crucial role in the American Revolution. The founding fathers among others fled Britain and Europe to seek religious freedom in the United States. The role of religion was very important in terms of mobilization, organizing the individuals, propaganda, and networking. She also failed to take into account the economics factor of the American Revolution, the financial motive behind the political participation in seizing and controlling the flow of the money. 
Arendt’s theory of revolution:
She is very critical of Marx and Marxism theory of revolution. Arendt happens to be critical about the liberal model of revolution too. Revolutions are not only about constraining the power of the monarchy. She believes there is more to it. In liberalism, its about creating a space of freedom, a vast space of freedom to pursue our own definition of happiness (American Model). In the Marxist theory: revolutions are about creating something beyond our world. To Marxism, revolution is a new epoch of age and history—the creation of a communist society. Going back to Arendt’s theory of revolution, she argued that a revolution should create the public space of freedom, a space where individuals can come together and work in harmony. According to Arendt, a revolution should be a new thing, the trigger of a new beginning, the beginning of a new order, something that is unprecedented, a cause that will disturb the course of history, the structures of politics, power, and authority.

The French model VS. The American model:
Arendt is very critical of the central tenets of the French Revolution. The French Revolution, according to Arendt, revolved around equality. Referring back to her theory of revolution, she’s very critical of Marx, hence why she finds the force of equality in the French revolution to be problematic. She also argued that the “spirit” of the French revolution was uncontrollable by the individuals; they were swept away by the revolutionary waves. The revolutionaries got thrown into a force; they got carried away, that at some point you would perceive them as a whole mass that lacked the plurality. Arendt linked this observation with Totalitarianism. She finds it very odious and concerning. She, later emphasized from her point of view, in the French revolution, the individuals that were involved in the action...

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