Master's Theses


Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


This thesis attempts to answer the following question: Is Hannah Arendt's theory of revolution unique, or does it fit into a contemporary school of thought on revolution? An effort is first made to understand Arendt's theory of revolution. To facilitate that understanding, the first chapter examines the forces that shaped her political thought, from this examination; we see that her background led her to focus on the necessity for human freedom, on the political realm as the enclave of freedom, and on the individual as the primary actor in, and reason for, the political world. The second chapter examines in detail Arendt's theory of revolution itself. We see that Arendt views revolution as a quest for freedom. Her idea of the successful revolution is one in which an area of freedom is carved out, in the form of political institutions, where all people are free to participate on a basis of equality. Next, we compare Arendt's theory with two theories representative of contemporary schools of thought on revolution. In the third chapter, Arendt's theory is compared with Samuel P. Huntington's. The two theories seem to have much in common since both view revolution as a participation problem. Yet, we are unable to class Arendt's theory in the Huntington school of thought on revolution because their notions of what constitutes participation, and even their approaches to the study of r evolution, are too divergent. In chapter four, we compare Arendt's theory with that of Bertrand de Jouvenel. The two theorists have a common philosophical approach to the study of revolution. However, their notions of freedom, and their views on the outcome of successful revolutions are quite dissimilar. It is determined that Arendt does not fit into the Jouvenel school of thought on revolution. In the concluding chapter, it is asserted that Arendt is distinctive in her theory of revolution. Yet it is emphasized that the assertion is limited, for an exhaustive comparison of Arendt's theory with all contemporary theories of revolution was not engaged in. As a result of this inquiry, then, it can be stated that, in regard to two major contemporary schools of thought on revolution, Hannah Arendt's theory of revolution is unique.


Dr. Patrick F. Drinan

Date of Award

Summer 1981

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1981 Jolene Marie Ruder


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