Hannah Arendt on Power and Revolution

Fall term 2006/2007, room 225V (nám. J. Palacha 2), We 9h10 – 10h50

dr. Jakub Čapek

The course will focus on some basic categories of the political thought of Hannah Arendt. Starting from the analysis of human action, Arendt established an original concept of power as an intrinsic feature of politics. To make clear this idea, we will concentrate on her distinction between power and violence. Subsequently, we will try to compare this analysis with Weber’s views on power. Afterwards, we will read - in the light of these reflections - the Habermas-Arendt encounter.

The second part of our course will deal with Arendt’s views on revolution. We will examine conceptual distinctions of Hannah Arendt by applying them to what happened in former Czechoslovakia in 1968 and 1989 (the Prague spring 1968 being the example par excellence of the conflict between power and violence). At the end of the course, we will try to establish a relation between Arendt’s thoughts and the analysis of power put forward by Václav Havel.

Evaluation is based on
· active participation
· presentation + handout (“zápočet” - 3 credits)
· presentation and an essay of 10 - 15 pages (“zkouška” – 6 credits)


Most texts (or extracts) are available on http://moodle.ff.cuni.cz

Schedule of the course

1. Introduction. Starting point of the action analysis (4. October 2006)
- text: Vita activa and the Human Condition (The Human Condition, § 1)
2. Action and power (11. October)
- text: Power and the Space of Appearance (The Human Condition, § 28)
3. Action and power II. (18. 10.)
- text: Power and the Space of Appearance (The Human Condition, § 28)
4. Weber on Power (25. 10.)
- text: Politics as Vocation
5. On Violence I. (1. 11.)
6. On Violence II. (8. 11.)
7. On Violence III. (15. 11.)
8. The Arendt - Habermas debate (22. 11.)
- text: Hannah Arendt’s Communications – Concept of Power
9. On Revolution I. (29. 11.)
10. On Revolution II. (6. 12.)
11. On Revolution III. (13. 12.)
12. Havel on Power (20. 12.)
- text: The Power of the Powerless
13. (3. 1. 2007)