What did the Cold War world forget about the 18th c. French and American revolutions?
Arendt’s claims is that both sides of the cold war have forgotten the original meaning of revolution. They have a distorted view of what the French revolutions were about.
Both sides forgot the stakes of freedom vs. tyranny; the debate became economic-technological:.Who can technologically innovate faster? Industrializing in decades rather than centuries.
French revolution starts a “revolutionary tradition” (cf. Zhou). U.S. revolution is seen as “not revolutionary. the idea that the French revolution is the kind of model of contemporary significance
Americans themselves forgot the spirit of their own revolution; they only remember the letter.
The U.S. takes an anti-revolutionary (anti-Marxist) turn, despite having begun in revolution.:
Americans do not develop a political theory (pg. 211-212). Revolutionary theory is French and German.:For Arendt a political theory has to do with interpreting revolutionary concepts not social sciences like American.
The Dilemma of Instituionalization
The American founders were unable to solve at the institutional design freedom and authority.
The difficulty is how to reconcile freedom and authority
Freedom creates authority. But freedom withers away under certain kinds of authority.: By authority, Arendt means constitutional authority/law that sets the basis between citizen and government. It gives clear guidance on what is legal and forbidden.
Freedom is future oriented, authority is past oriented. Freedom is experiential, authority is institutional.
Your freedom has to be experienced by yourself. Authority has to do with the fundamental rules/laws of an entire society and Arendt claims that this is at the base of a society not an economic system.
The U.S. constitution preserved authority more than it preserved freedom.:
Authority for the U.S. framers meant reason distant from popular passions. The solution for the founders is to create offices where reason can be removed from the masses by an elite group of people.
The Senate “purifies” mass-sentiments (until 1913). It is the site of opinion formation. According the Arendt the senate is supposed to purify mass sentiments.
The Supreme Court is the site of legal judgment. Justices only interpret; their job is “conservative.”his idea that there would be a supreme court Arendt says, the supreme court is the supreme sight of legal judgement. It exists purely for the sake of legal authority and only has legal authority