Hannah Arendt, the Council System and Contemporary Political Theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter, I discuss the way Hannah Arendt reinterpreted the council tradition along the lines of her own political theory. Arendt’s (in)famous separation between the social and the political led her to distort important historical aspects of the council movement. At the same time, I argue, it allowed Arendt to contribute to the council tradition an important, original dimension. By conceptualising political action and speech as ends in themselves, Arendt urged us to think about the councils, as well as about similar attempts at creating participatory societies, not only in terms of the specific goals towards which they strive, but also in terms of the unique experience of political freedom they allow for “ordinary” citizens. By highlighting the way citizens of modern democracies are deprived of this experience, Arendt’s reinterpretation of the council movement provides us with a powerful normative critique not only of liberal democracy but also of alternative accounts of democracy and citizenship such as deliberative democracy and republicanism. Thinking of the council movement “with and against Arendt, " I finally argue, is essential in assessing contemporary challenges to hegemonic democratic theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCouncil Democracy
Subtitle of host publicationTowards a Democratic Socialist Politics
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781351205627
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor and Francis.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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