THE DOUBLE BIND: THE AMBIVALENT TREATMENT OF TRAGIC PASSIONS IN HANNAH ARENDT’S THEORY OF REVOLUTION

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Abstract:

This article offers a close reading of Hannah Arendt’s book On Revolution. It exposes the ambivalence of Arendt with regard to tragedy and mimesis. This ambivalence is not just her own; it is inherent in the treatment of tragedy and mimesis throughout the history of political thought. In spite of Arendt’s argument that privileges the limited American Revolution against the boundless French one, in her rhetoric and in her storytelling Arendt presents a unitary but dialectical picture of revolution, where suffering and foundation are inseparably intertwined. The founding public action of revolutionaries implies a crisis of mimetic passions (of fear and pity) which threatens to undo, but also set the stage for, revolution. This negative, passionate and passive side of revolution helps us to come to terms with the non-productive but emancipatory revolutions in the Eastern Europe of 1989-91.

Keywords: Arendt; Aristotle; Lacoue-Labarthe; Robert Pirro; Sophocles; double bind; fear; melancholia; mimesis; pity; revolution; tragedy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science and Sociology, The European University at SaintPetersburg, Gagarinskaya 3, 191187 Saint-Petersburg, Russia, Email: amagun@eu.spb.ru

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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