Is Polis the Answer? Hannah Arendt on Democracy

Monika Bokiniec


The aim of this paper is to reconsider Hannah Arendt’s most influential works from the point of view of her attitude towards democracy and analysis of the way it may contribute to the contemporary understanding and redefinition of the very notion of what democracy is.

The paper begins with the reconstruction of Arendt’s anthropology in order to ground her political reflections. The next part discusses the basic characteristics of counsel democracy in forms of spontaneous, local organizations and associations in which every citizen could freely and equally participate, as they show through her analysis of revolutions. The last part deals with different and contradictory interpretations of Arendt’s attitude towards democracy and the question whether her proposition is a practical, revolutionary proposition or an idealist utopia. The interpretation of Arendt’s project emphasizing her democratic and reformative approach is defended. The conclusion states Hannah Arendt’s important contribution to the contemporary reflection on democracy in view of her recognition of the power of grassroots collective actions and their role in contemporary political sphere and the necessity of such formed at grass­roots and spontaneous level actions and associations as a unique safety valve for the society, as well as a counterbalance for mass society.


Article in: English

Article published: 2009-03-16

Keyword(s): grass-roots democracy; council democracy; revolution

DOI: 10.3846/1822-430X.2009.17.1.76-82

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