9th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Pertsas

George Pertsas

Birth, Action, Revolution: The Ambivalent Messianism of Hannah Arendt 

The work of Hannah Arendt is a phenomenological reconstruction of political existence, which is explicitly devoid of any transcendent reference. Nonetheless, some of the concepts central to her undertaking, such as ‘natality’, ‘action’, and ‘revolution’, seem to be tinged, albeit imperceptibly, with a certain messianic tone. This paper argues that identifying the messianic element in Arendt’s work provides an indispensable key to her thought. The messianic, however, does not exert its influence from without, so to speak, in an unadulterated way, as in Arendt’s reception it undergoes a profound transformation. Concerned as she is with the care for the ‘world’ no less than with new beginnings, Arendt moderates the messianic by divesting it of its original absoluteness and vehemence. This ambivalent messianic tonality seems to inform the arendtian conception of temporality, history and human existence.