You Say You Want a Revolution

Hannah Arendt: theorist of revolution


Over at the Globe and Mail, I try to place the current turmoil in the Middle East (and elsewhere) in the context of various theories of revolution. You can read the article here.

An excerpt:

But Ms. Arendt caught a glimpse of something in that novelty factor – the “new experience” of being free – that escaped the attention of the other scholars: Revolutions are fun. They are a holiday from the mundane world of routine activity.

She called attention to a curious statement made by American revolutionary John Adams, who noted that in rising up against the British, he and his fellow radicals learned that “it is action, not rest, that constitutes our pleasure.” Adams was a dour man, so it’s noteworthy that he took “pleasure” from revolutionary agitation.

3 thoughts on “You Say You Want a Revolution

  1. Adams wasn’t a dour man. He was a sharp-tongued, witty man portrayed as dour by his enemies. You seem to think that you get the humor in a line he gave straight, which means the joke is on you.

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