Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Richard Wolin

Subject Categories

Comparative Philosophy | European History | Feminist Philosophy | Intellectual History


Hannah Arendt, Rosa Luxemburg, revolution, Marxism, direct democracy, feminist theory


This work is an exploration of Hannah Arendt’s portrait of Rosa Luxemburg. Beginning with a few minor discussions of Luxemburg in her first major work Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), the socialist revolutionary’s place in the constellation of figures that appear in Arendt’s work grew over the course of her career. Arendt’s portrait of Luxemburg culminated in “A Heroine of Revolution,” which appeared in the New York Review of Books, and in Men in Dark Times (1968). Yet Arendt’s portrait of Luxemburg was notable for its excision of her revolutionary Marxism in the process of sculpting Luxemburg into a figure who reflected Arendt’s own philosophical and revolutionary political theories. This piece is a work of both intellectual history and comparative political theory, exploring the development of Arendt’s portrait of Luxemburg through her life and her written works. Furthermore, it will explore the thinkers’ shared ambivalent relationship to women’s movements and the paradoxical applicability of their thinking to later feminist theory. The resulting combination of theoretical and personal influences articulate the points of commonality between the thinkers and their major differences—differences which Arendt failed to incorporate into her portrait. The resulting comparative analysis between the revolutionary thought of Arendt and Luxemburg explores the relationship between democracy and revolution in modern political thought. While both thinkers rely upon their notions of revolution to bring substantial meaning to democracy, this thesis problematizes, rather than resolves the relationship between revolution and democracy as laid out in both Luxemburg’s and Arendt’s claims.