Toward an understanding of action in Hannah Arendt

Nemesio S Que, Fordham University


This dissertation aims to rethink the significance and place of action in the political realm along with Hannah Arendt. To achieve this aim, there is a gradual description of Arendt's characteristic understanding of action from its more elemental features to its concrete manifestation in revolution. The process of recovering action for the political world involves a series of recoveries of other aspects of action that lost their place in thought as well as in deed when action was forgotten. The public realm, the space where action is real, is recovered from a realm that has taken on a dominantly private and social hue. Freedom, the raison d'etre of action, is retrieved from its imprisonment in the inner self and its confusion with liberation. Speech--negotiation, discussion, debate, decision-making--is accentuated as a mode of action that captures the spirit of the political. Power, which emerges when people act in concert, is rescued from its entanglement with violence. It is often said that violence serves power; Arendt says that power arises from and serves action. Violence is impotent. Finally, there is also a recovery of revolution as a political act preparing for and keeping secure the foundations of action and freedom. Revolution is retrieved from a notion that links it with the social question, and ultimately with violence. To better appreciate and more critically evaluate Arendt's understanding of action, the dissertation explores the capacity of her concept/s to illuminate contemporary political experiences, in particular, events that continue to shape and reshape the political landscape of the Philippines. The same experiences are also employed to confront Arendt with questions and difficulties that are indicative of the aporias besetting her understanding of action.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Political science

Recommended Citation

Que, Nemesio S, "Toward an understanding of action in Hannah Arendt" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9127044.