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The Revolutionary Spirit: Hannah Arendt and the Anarchists of the Spanish Civil War

Joel Olson
Polity
Vol. 29, No. 4 (Summer, 1997), pp. 461-488
DOI: 10.2307/3235264
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3235264
Page Count: 28
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The Revolutionary Spirit: Hannah Arendt and the Anarchists of the Spanish Civil War
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Abstract

Hannah Arendt argued that the only way to keep a revolution from degenerating into an authoritarian regime no more hospitable to freedom and equality than the regime it overthrew is to create a republic of broad-based councils to institutionalize wide participation in public affairs. Yet Arendt's claim is incomplete because it rests on an analysis assuming that revolution involves a simple two-sided conflict between old and new and neglects the social aspects of postrevolutionary life. The complications arising from multisided conflict and the importance of the social foundations of participation can be better understood by examining carefully the experiences of Spanish anarchist collectives in the 1930s. Their experience fleshes out the practical aspects of establishing and maintaining the federated council system capable of maintaining a highly participatory and hence truly democratic society.

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