Montesquieu, Hegel, Marx, and the End of Tradition

Continuing Through The Promise of Politics

Thank you to the participants at Critical Theory Chicago discussions!

We’ve had such interesting conversations about and a growing interest in Arendt’s political philosophy that we are moving on through the rest of The Promise of Politics. If you missed the first two, don’t be afraid to jump in. The essays are independent of one another so it is fine to join us at any point. The moderator for this discussion joined us for the first time on Oct. 24th and then volunteered to lead this next event. Thanks for jumping in Alec!

Space is very limited, so please RSVP using the Google form below.
Monday November 7th, 2016
Harold Washington Library Chicago IL
6th Floor North Study Room

Following our close read of Arendt’s essays and lectures published under “The Promise of Politics,” we pick up with “Montesquieu’s Revision of the Tradition,” “From Hegel to Marx,” and “The End of Tradition.”

In “The Spirit of the Laws” Montesquieu adds a new distinction to the tradition: “the nature of government makes it what it is, and its principle makes it act and move.”  With this insight of a principle that inspirits, tyranny, rather than being a deformed type of government as typically thought, now shows its own vitality.

Next we move to the essay “From Hegel to Marx.”  Both of these thinkers stand together, with an odd contradiction and correspondence, at the end of the tradition.  This is best summed up by the famous quote from Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach”:”hitherto the goal of philosophers has been to understand the world – the real goal, however, is to change it.”  With this idea of development, Marx breaks with tradition, but still works firmly within its framework.  What now makes history comprehensible is class struggle.  We have moved from homo religiosus through animal rationale to animal laborans.

Beginning with the contempt Plato had for politics, political philosophy never recovered from the damage done by philosophy to politics.  Thus our tradition of political philosophy has deprived political affairs of all dignity of their own.  With “The End of Tradition” we see that the end brought about by Marx does not challenge philosophy, but rather its alleged impracticality in the world.  The consequence that Marx drew from Hegel is that action, rather than being the opposite of thought, is the vehicle of thought, and that politics, far from being beneath the dignity of philosophy, is the only activity that is inherently philosophical.


Space is very limited, so please RSVP using the Google form below.

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