On Revolution – Hannah Arendt (1963)

1960s: Days of Rage

On Revolution is a 1963 book by political theorist Hannah Arendt. Arendt presents a comparison of two of the main revolutions of the eighteenth century, the American and French Revolutions. Twelve years after the publication of her The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), looking at what she considered failed revolutions, Arendt optimistically turned her attention to predict nonviolent movements that would restore democratic governments around the world. Her predictions turned out to be largely true, these revolutions being largely, but unconsciously, based on the principles she laid out. In On Revolution Arendt argues that the French Revolution, while well studied and often emulated, was a disaster and that the largely ignored American Revolution was a success, an argument that runs counter to common Marxist and leftist views. The turning point in the French Revolution came when the revolution’s leaders abandoned their goal of freedom in order to focus…

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