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Reading: Political Action Beyond Resistance: Arendt and “Revolutionary Spirit” in Egypt


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Political Action Beyond Resistance: Arendt and “Revolutionary Spirit” in Egypt


Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen

University of Jyväskylä, FI
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The article examines what it calls the “politics-as-resistance” frame in contemporary political theory, originating in the works of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. This way of organizing political experience is contrasted with Hannah Arendt’s political thought, particularly her writings on revolutionary action. Arendt’s often overlooked – and partly unpublished – passages on virtù and fortuna are further suggested as important additions to her thinking on action. I argue that Arendt’s “world-centric” approach can illuminate certain aspects of political experience that remain dimmed in the more subject-oriented politics- as-resistance frame. Particular focus is paid to the austere notion of freedom in politics-as-resistance, its overly process-oriented presentation of political temporality, underdeveloped approach to institutions, and insufficient exploration of the joyful end of the affective register of action. In the last part of the article, the tragedy of the Egyptian 2011 revolution is discussed as an illustration of the arguments.

How to Cite: Hyvönen, Ari-Elmeri. 2016. “Political Action Beyond Resistance: Arendt and “revolutionary Spirit” in Egypt”. Redescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory 19 (2): 191–213. DOI:
Published on 01 Sep 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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