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Hannah Arendt Center presents

Lunchtime Talk with Marianne LeNabat: "Arendt's Revolutionary Idea: Politics Is Collective Action"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Both supporters and detractors read Arendt as generally continuous with a certain tradition of civic-minded liberalism or republicanism, insofar as she describes politics as a free deliberation among equals in a public sphere.  But for that very reason, both supporters and detractors underestimate how radically oriented her political theory really was.  While many remember her for lauding the American Revolution, for example, it is easy to forget that she was also a champion of the Hungarian Revolution and its directly democratic council system. LeNabat will argue that these more conservative readings of Arendt are rooted in a neglect of her truly unique contribution to political thought, namely her foregrounding of collective action. As she puts it in her essay on violence, “What makes man a political being is his faculty of action; it enables him to get together with his peers, to act in concert, and to reach out for goals that would never enter his mind, let alone the desires of his heart, had he not been given this gift.”  Despite the fact that Arendt is one of the few theorists to have paid serious theoretical attention to collective action, it remains one aspect of her thought that is most frequently ignored or misrecognized.  LeNabat will show how this concept is crucial to understanding her political theory, including her interest in revolution, and the optimism expressed in her notion of natality. She will then conclude by describing why Arendt’s concept of collective action is crucially important for both apprehending and appraising political movements today.

Marianne LeNabat is a PhD candidate at The New School for Social Research.  Her work focuses on solidarity, spontaneity and collective action, with particular attention to recent political movements.  Outside of academia, she has been involved in student, workplace, and tenant organizing.

Time: 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Location: Arendt Center