Vol. 45 No. 3 1978 - page 359

Arendt would h ave don e better to seek alli es among more recent
theoreti cians of
T here is one fin al point
be made about H annah Arendt 's
"continuous dia logue" with Marx, whi ch concerns one of her major
preoccupa tions, the questi on of violence. In her lexicon, it will be
reca lled , violen ce is understood as inherentl y nonpolitical because of
its in strumental ch aracter.
is con ceptuall y di stinct from power,
which involves men acting without coercion on the basis o f equality,
altho ugh in practi ce power and violence often exist together. In
Between Past and Fu ture
(1961 ), she bera ted Marx for assuming
violence is the midwife of hi story:
To Marx ... violence or rather the possession of the means of
vio lence is the constituent element of a1l forms of government; the
state is the instrument of the ru ling class by means of which it
oppresses and exploits, and the whole sphere of political action is
characterized by the use of viol ence.
But by the time of
Crises of the R epub lic
(1972), sh e had reversed
herself entirely and now claimed Ma rx in support of her distincti on :
The strong Marxi st rhetoric of the New Left coincides with the
steady growth of the entirely non -Marxian conviction , proclaimed by
Mao T se-Tung, that " Power grows out of the barrel of a gun." To be
sure, Marx was aware of the role of violence in history, but this role
him secondary.
Sartre, sh e goes on to argu e, is thus fa r closer to Sorel and Fanon than
he is to Marx because of hi s endorsement of political violen ce.
Wha t is important about thi s reversal is not the fact tha t she was
guilty of a self-contradi cti on , whi ch is inevitabl e in such a large body
of work, but ra ther the warning it p rovides
foll ow her reasoning in
this area with an eye open for other inconsistencies. They are in fact
not hard to find . In h er di scu ssion of
homo fab er,
Miss Arendt argued
tha t the violence done to the na tural material fashioned into a human–
ized product is n ecessaril y entailed in an y act of fabri cation . In wh at is
normall y seen as the political realm, the chief act of fabrication is tha t
of the secure founding of a polity, which provides the public space
necessary for the exercise of freedom. In
On R evol'!-ltion,
sh e empha–
sized the necessity of such a foundati on for a stable society, which is
one reason she preferred the Ameri can to the French Revolution. The
prototype of all foundings is tha t of Rome, which she first described in
Between Past an d Fut u re
as free of violence:
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