What is a revolution? – Kumar and Arendt

After reading the texts by Kumar and Arendt, think about what you find compelling, and what you remain unconvinced by, in their discussions of how “revolution” should be understood. Then, drawing on the readings, propose in your own words a definition of what “revolution” should mean. Drawing on specific examples from the texts, explain how your proposed definition is related to their arguments; explain why your definition is better than other ways we might use the term; and give some specific historical examples of events or processes that count as revolutions, according to your definition, and others that don’t. 

The Complex Nature of Revolution

Revolution is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that involves political, social, and economic changes (Lerner, 1958). It often arises from long-standing grievances and inequalities that the ruling powers have ignored or suppressed (Arendt, 1963; Higonnet, 1989). Revolutionary ideas and ideology are essential in inspiring and motivating people to take action and fight for change (Koselleck, 1988; Popkin, 1980). However, revolutions’ causes, dynamics, and outcomes depend highly on specific historical contexts and conditions (Palmer, 1959; Skocpol, 1979). While some argue that revolution is an inevitable or necessary stage in historical development (Marx & Engels, 1848), others question this view and emphasize the importance of non-violent means of social change (King, 1963). Moreover, revolutions cannot lead to more just and democratic societies. They can have positive and negative consequences depending on how they are conducted and what kind of society they aim to create (Tocqueville, 2003; Zaretsky, 2011).

Based on the discussions in Arendt and Kumar’s texts, revolution is a nuanced and context-specific approach necessary to understand the complex and varied phenomenon of revolution. While certain generalizations and theories may help provide a framework for analysis, it is essential to consider the historical, social, and political conditions that give rise to revolutionary movements and their outcomes. Therefore, an alternative definition of revolution might be that it is a fundamental and far-reaching change in the structure or organization of society, which involves a shift in power relations and a reconfiguration of social, economic, and political institutions. This definition emphasizes the transformative and radical nature of revolution, which implies a break from the past and a new direction for the future. It also suggests that revolution involves a redistribution of power and resources, which can lead to conflict and upheaval, as well as the possibility of creating a more just and equitable society.

This definition aligns with the discussions in the provided texts, which highlight the multi-dimensional and context-specific nature of revolution and its potential to bring about significant social change. For example, in “Revolution – Inventing Revolution: American and French Revolutions,” Palmer (1959) argues that the American Revolution was a transformative event that created a new political order based on democratic principles of popular sovereignty and individual rights, which was unprecedented in the history of the world.

Similarly, the French Revolution aimed to overthrow the old order of the Ancient Régime and establish a new society based on liberty, equality, and fraternity (Arendt, 1963; Higonnet, 1989). Both revolutions involved a profound reconfiguration of social and political institutions, including creating new constitutions and legal systems, abolishing feudal privileges and hierarchies, and establishing new representation and government.

Examples of events or processes that count as revolutions according to the alternative definition are the industrial revolution and the Civil Rights movement. The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries involved a profound transformation of the economy and society, as new technologies and forms of production led to the growth of factories, urbanization, and the rise of the capitalist system. This revolution involved a fundamental change in the structure and organization of society and a redistribution of power and resources. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States involved a profound shift in power relations and a reconfiguration of social, economic, and political institutions as African Americans and their allies challenged the system of racial segregation and discrimination in American society. This movement involved a fundamental change in the structure and organization of society and a redistribution of power and resources from the white majority to the black minority.

On the other hand, the Protestant reformation and the American War of Independence would not count as revolution. Although the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century involved a significant change in religious beliefs and practices, it did not involve a fundamental change in the structure or organization of society, nor did it result in a redistribution of power and resources. Although the American War of Independence of 1775-1783 involved the creation of a new political order based on democratic principles of popular sovereignty and individual rights, it did not involve a fundamental reconfiguration of social, economic, and political institutions, nor did it result in a significant redistribution of power and resources.


Starting with Kumar’s text, I found it compelling that he labeled revolution as a European invention. This was a new concept for me, but I do agree with Kumar that Europeans created the idea of revolution and through trade, missionaries, and imperialistic conquest this concept was spread throughout the world. (Kumar, 2113). I also resonated with the fact that revolutions are typically related to the political left as opposed to the political right; which of course makes sense since the left is more of a future based ideology whereas the right is more nostalgic. I was not fully convinced of his point that the French Revolution is the revolution. Kumar writes “The French Revolution is the model revolution, the archetype of all revolutions. It defines what revolution is.” (Kumar, 2117). If another, better, revolution happens would that one become the new ‘definition of revolution’? What if it looked nothing like the French Revolution, would the definition change to follow the new model? Is as successful revolution less of a revolution if it doesn’t follow the French model?

In Arendt’s text “On Revolution”, I was compelled by the idea that having rights is in itself a right as she explains on page 41. Arendt writes that “equality as a birthright was utterly unknown before the modern age.” (Arendt, 40). I grappled with the ironic idea that before the modern age there are no examples of revolution yet also little laws of equality. Since the birthright of equality that Arendt speaks about has become common – in the modern era – there are plenty of examples of revolution. As with Kumar’s text, Arendt spent lots of time praising the French Revolution yet the questions I posed earlier still apply.

If I had to define revolution, I would make it much broader than either of their definitions or explanations. I do not believe that only one model of revolution should be followed to be labeled as a revolution. Revolution should include a change in government (whether that be leader, party, regime, etc)., that is the result of a conflict that has been approached by either a violent and/or diplomatic solution from the people who are advocating on behalf of perceived oppression against a group of people.

My definition is very different from both of the readings because it accepts many more things into the term revolution than either Kumar or Arendt allowed. My argument is related to Kumar’s because it follows a ‘leftist’ perception that the revolution is in response to oppression of a group of people which is a leftist ideology. My definition is related to Arendts because it includes the possibility that revolution can occur diplomatically not just violently which relates to her points that war and violence are changing and have the possibility to disappear. (Arendt, 13). My definition could include the 2020 President Election as an example of revolution; a dramatic change in government that included both violence (storming the capital) and diplomacy (democratic voting process) to resolve the perceived threat against a group of people (in this case the group of people is all Americans who felt threatened by Trump as president).


Revolution is freedom and in light of Kumar’s reading, I resonate with the astronomical conception of political change. Furthermore, the article gives a deeper meaning and purpose of revolution. Specifically, noting that revolution justifies freedom and is based on revelation and the cosmic revolution of Christ’s coming.  I believe like Kumar that the term and meaning of revolution is beyond this physical realm called earth. It derives from a deeper meaning, an intrinsic concept that is living and breathing and cycles out the present physical or secular dominant of our human existence. Revolution as it evolves is a heavenly city of freedom and the return of identity to creation.

Moreover, I do not believe that my understanding is better but proves factual.  As we can see that there is an astrological universe that holds mankind and all that dwells within and therefore can see that there are earthly realms and heavens which are moving consistently and obviously preordained to move in cycles and revolutionary seasons.  In other words, seasons are not limited by time but all add up to a predestined result. Similarly, Hannah Arendt writes season are geared to the “affairs of men on earth, it could only signify that the few known forms of government revolve among the mortals in eternal recurrence and with the same irresistible force which makes the stars follow their pre-ordained paths in the skies” (Arendt 1990).

Nonetheless, this heavenly gift of revolution continues to send the spirit of freedom to create and birth history. For example, the greatest account of revolution is the French Revolution (1879-1881) which reverted to the initial freedoms of mankind and overthrew laws that countered them. Another example would be the English Civil War which was thought to be the very first revolutionary war that resulted in the removal and death of the monarch king.  Another revolutionary war was the bloody protest in Russia, where the Russian people gathered in hundreds to demand freedom and human dignity in their labor conditions. Apart from the text, in my opinion some of the greatest movements of revolution are Nat Turner, Abraham Lincoln and our very own Civil War, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were accounts of evolution and the revert of unity between humanity on earth.

Generally speaking, the commonality in these historic events which resulted in war was the path to restoration and the return to the human laws of nature based on the spirit of freedom for both humanity and the creation that God intended. Overall, both readings brought justification of revolution and its response which is war. Revolution is the response from humanity when enslaved and as Arendt notes it was and always has been a form of freedom and as St. Augustine of Hippo put it, “a great migration of souls”.  Lastly, very well put in the text that both war and revolution is an interrelationship, a mutual dependence and the end of war is revolution. A revolution is caused the desire attain freedom and seek what is just.


Arendt’s understanding of a revolution is one where there is a new experience an experiencing of being free. Beginning something new. Kumar’s understanding of revolution is, radical transformation. A new world. In my opinion the most compelling Arendt had was, “in order to rule, one had to be born a ruler, a free-born man in antiquity, a member of the nobility in feudal Europe, and although there were enough words in premodern political language to describe the uprising of subjects against a ruler, there was none which would describe a change so radical that the subjects became rulers themselves.” (pg. 41) this to me is a product of revolution where there is a change in the political structure of not just nobility but every man having the chance at political involvement. Arendt least compelling to me is, “the modern concept of revolution, inextricably bound up with the notion that the course of history suddenly begins anew, that an entirely new story never known or told before.” (pg. 28) The fact that it is has to be new and never seen before for it to be revolutionary.

With Kumar, what I found most compelling is “it was individual rights, a free civil society and a liberal constitution that were the centerpieces of the programs of 1989.” (pg. 10) These are typically the cornerstone for a revolution in my opinion. Kumar’s least convincing argument, “fairly or not, it is the French, not the American Revolution that has come to be seen as the inventor of the modern concept of revolution.” (pg. 6) The American revolution has as much power in the invention of the modern concept of revolution. The American revolution was a war of liberation. Liberation as Arendt stated, “revolution as we know it in modern age has always been concerned with both liberation and freedom.” (pg. 32)

My definition of a Revolution is a movement that is able to command a change in the current political and social structure. It is a change from unjust to just whether violent or non-violent. My definition is related to both Kumar and Arendt texts. Arendt stated, “is it too much to read into current rather than hopeless confusion of issues and arguments a hopeful indication that a profound change in international relations may be about to occur, namely, the disappearance of war from the scene of politics even without radical transformation of international relations and without an inner change of men’s hearts and minds.” (pg. 14) From Kumar’s article, “it was the action of human will and human reason upon an imperfect and unjust world to bring into being the good society.” (pg. 7) My answer is better in the fact that it is not restricted to violence and war and newness. Some examples of events are the East German Revoltuion October 9,1989, a non-violent protest that led to the take down of a communist regime. I think the Haitian Revolution which was the most successful slave rebellion in the Western region.


I believe a revolution is when a country’s social environment shifts and the political structure does not handle it well. Current conditions will cause to be discouraged, which impacts their core values and beliefs. In the book, New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, Krishan Kumar defines revolution as a shift in political ways. In explaining, he reviews the theory and reality of European revolutions, while Arendt sees revolutions as attempts to reshape the society meaning a new beginning along with an idea of freedom. My proposed definition relates to their argument but I don’t believe that my definition is better since Kumar and Arendt’s interpretation of revolution is similar to my definition of what revolution is but I wouldn’t say how I described it is better. I see it as a shift and individuals not accepting the change while they both see it as not just a shift in history but also freedom. According to Arendt, the true aim of a revolution consists of the appearance of a free public realm, where freedom would be guaranteed for all. The modern conception of revolution is to create a completely new system of government that resolves social issues. There are different types of revolutions such as the American revolution, the French revolution, the Haitian revolution, and the Spanish-American war of independence. 

What I found compelling was Arendt opposing the theory that Christian is what started revolutions. On page 25 of on revolution, it states “A few words need still to be said about the not infrequent claim that all modern revolutions are essentially Christian in origin, and this even when their professed faith is atheism. The argument supporting this claim usually points to the clear”.  Arendt mentions the claim that all modern revolutions are primarily Christian in the beginning and on page 26 she goes on to say,  “the separation of religion from politics and the rise of a secular realm with a dignity of its own, is certainly a crucial factor in the phenomenon of revolution. Indeed, it may ultimately turn out that what we call revolution is precisely that transitory phase that brings about the birth of a new, secular realm. But if this is true, then it is secularization itself, and not the contents of Christian teachings, which constitutes the origin of revolution.” This shows that she thinks It’s possible that revolution is a temporary thing that brings in a new, larger society, and that transformation itself rather than being told Christian teachings is what caused the rise of revolution. The current definition of revolution is to create a completely new system of government that, traditionally, aims to solve the public issue. Arendt claims that the modern understanding of revolution involves the idea that history is reinvented and that this era aligns with the idea of freedom. 


Based on the texts by Kumar and Arendt, I truly believe that Kumar test of Revolution is compelling, due to how Kumar has elevated the thought of Revolution within different aspects of point of view, such as how its related within classical conceptions, and how Kumar emphasized the dealing of the French Revolution was indeed part of a revolution. ‘’The French Revolution is the model revolution, the archetype of all revolutions. It defines what revolution is.’’ (Kumar 2117) I find it very interesting that Hannah Arendt looks at how the French Revolution is not characterized as a successful revolution, in where she characterized it as ‘’of defense and aggression.’’ (Arendt 17) Based on readings, I strongly propose that the definition of ‘’revolution’’ should be the act of relation towards human rights, in which a collective number of individuals fight against aggression within an idea in pursuing a better life for society. As mentioned by Kumar, the French Revolution tended to be ‘’established the classic pattern of revolution.’’ (Kumar 2217) The revolution by the French demonstrated that they all tended to fight towards what’s right, in order for themselves to be equal, and live their lives freely. It demonstrates that the voice of society, when together, can put aside any fight towards the benefit of human basic rights. The effort committed by the people of France demonstrated that as a society we must come together to undergo a revolution in the right context. ‘’It showed, by its own example as well as its attempt to export its revolution, by its ideas as well as its armies, what it is a society must do to undergo revolution. In this sense the French Revolution was not simply the first great revolution.’’ (Kumar 2117) Revolution demonstrates the will of others to come together to benefit the general outcome of life and expectancy of society. With such characterization led by the French people, it has shown the world the defining moment of revolution which has led to many more. It tended to open the eyes of others, to put up a fight against what’s against the will of society. The world has become stronger from the anger by the French people that characterized the French Revolution. ‘’All revolutions subsequently were indebted to it. It was from the French that they borrowed their concept. It was the French Revolution whose practice they attempted to imitate-even when they hoped to go beyond.’’ (Kumar 2117) Such concept of revolution truly demonstrates the concept of human rights, in which it correlates heavily within how revolutions have taken place such as The French Revolution, in which it gives a broad example to the world of the idea.


Both Kumar and Arendt offer insightful perspectives on the concept of revolution, exploring different facets of this intricate and multifaceted phenomenon. Kumar emphasizes the transformative character of the revolution, noting that it involves a rupture with existing order and the construction of an entirely new society based on different principles. He suggests that the revolution is altering rulers or policies and altering the structures and norms that underlie social relations. Arendt emphasizes the political dimension of revolution, seeing it as a time of democratic renewal when people challenge oppressive regimes and claim their right to self-rule. She stresses the significance of public action and participation in this process of change, contending that collective action allows individuals to regain political agency and create new forms of government. Both perspectives are compelling in their own right, yet to truly define revolution one must incorporate elements from both Kumar’s and Arendt’s perspectives. From Kumar, I focused on its transformative and systemic nature; that it involves changing leaders or policies while fundamentally reorganizing society. With Arendt as my guide, however, I have observed the political dimension as people challenge oppressive structures and assert their right to participate in government.

Therefore, I propose that revolution be defined as a radical and transformative social and political process in which individuals come together to challenge oppressive structures, norms, and institutions and create new forms of government and social relations based on principles such as justice, equality, and freedom. This definition emphasizes both its systemic nature while emphasizing its political dimension as well as stressing the importance of collective action and democratic participation. This definition of revolution is superior to other ways we use the term. It avoids reductionism, seeing revolution as a simple shift of leadership or policy; instead, it emphasizes its profound and systemic transformation of society. Furthermore, it stresses its political dimension – emphasizing democratic participation and collective action – as well as upholding principles like justice, equality, and liberty which are at the core of most revolutionary movements.

Examples of revolutions considered revolutionary under this definition include the American Revolution, Haitian Revolution, Russian Revolution and Latin America Revolution. In these instances, people mobilized to challenge oppressive structures and create new governance and social relations based on justice, equality and freedom. Conversely, events such as coups or regime changes that do not involve a fundamental transformation of social or political structures may not qualify as true revolutions.


The term “Revolution” has intriguing etymological origins and uses throughout history. It’s repeated that The French Revolution of 1789 was the “first” true example of a revolution in our most modern sense of the word. That this was the catalyst for an entire new era of revolutions all around the world up until this point in history. What I find worth noting is that Hannah Arendt (Pg 49), almost described the very act of revolution as not something that is actively or consciously started by people themselves but as an inevitability of any functioning society that incrementally degrades. She mentions that various participants in the revolution saw it as a natural event in the flow of order and chaos. The saying “it’s easier to destroy than it is to build” feels like a very relevant quote when you consider how imminent any uprising will become the longer a society continues to exist.

However, The French Revolution is very remarkable because of what it accomplished compared to every documented rebellion in recorded human history. The French Revolution essentially created a new “baseline” for what uprisings constitute a revolution and which ones don’t. Its overthrow of a monarchical government and establishing a completely different set of ideas and systems in place of it, was what made it the epoch it was in the world of social political history. Within a relatively short time after the French Revolution started in 1789, Haiti itself received the spark to start a revolution of its own with the first slave revolt occurring in 1791. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), was essentially a part of the domino effect that The French Revolution itself triggered. Both of these revolutions had very similar goals and were intertwined and influenced each other as they both occurred. Given the circumstances of their plights and what the ultimate goal of their rebellion was, Revolutions seem to have particular proclivities and goals that previous rebellions did not. Krishan Kumar’s paper points out how the concept of a “Right-Wing Revolution” is seemingly paradoxical and is almost an inherent contradiction. This acknowledgement draws a potentially blurry line as to what the intent of a “true” revolution really is and what its exact agenda entails. The implication here is that revolution is not just something any person can decide to do, and that there has to be a clear intent and emphasize on changing society’s Structure, Government and Ethical values.


A revolution can be defined as a fundamental and radical change in the structure, values, and organization of a society or government, often brought about through popular uprising or rebellion. It involves a significant shift in power relations, and the emergence of new leaders and institutions that reshape the social, economic, and political landscape of a nation or region.

In Kumar’s discussion of revolution, he emphasizes the transformative potential of revolutionary movements in challenging existing power structures and creating a more just and equitable society. He argues that revolutions are driven by a collective desire for freedom, equality, and social change, and that they represent a crucial moment of political and cultural transformation in human history.On the other hand, Arendt’s understanding of revolution is more skeptical, emphasizing the violence and unpredictability that often accompany revolutionary upheavals. She contends that revolutions can easily turn into totalitarianism or chaos, and that their transformative potential is often limited by the fact that they tend to be reactive and destructive, rather than creative and constructive.

Drawing on these readings, I propose a definition of revolution as a collective and radical social movement that seeks to fundamentally transform existing power structures and create a more just and equitable society. This definition emphasizes the importance of collective action and social mobilization in bringing about revolutionary change, as well as the need for a clear and coherent vision of the kind of society that is being fought for.This definition is preferable to other ways of using the term “revolution” because it avoids the romanticization or demonization of revolutionary movements, instead focusing on their transformative potential and the challenges and opportunities that they present.

Examples of events or processes that count as revolutions, according to this definition, include the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution. These were all large-scale social movements that fundamentally transformed the political and social landscape of their respective nations, and that were driven by a desire for social justice and equality.Other historical events or processes, such as the American Civil War, the Cuban Revolution, and the Iranian Revolution, may also be considered revolutionary, depending on the degree to which they fit the criteria outlined in this definition.However, there are also many examples of historical events or processes that do not qualify as revolutions, such as coups, riots, and protests that do not fundamentally transform existing power structures or create lasting social change.


After reading both excerpts, I feel I tend to fall more in the line of thinking of Kumar’s perception of Revolution over Arendt. I agree with Kumar in the sense that revolution as we know it is constantly changing as society evolves. As he states, “There cannot be any ‘essentialist’ definition of revolution, any account that assumes some permanent, unvarying meaning.”(Kumar) This statement resonates with how I think about revolution, in that revolution is in a constantly redefining era, as society decides what political foundations they are trying to revolt against. As Kumar, explains, and I agree with, as a society we have this almost biased way of thinking about the concept of revolution through a Western lens. The ever-changing concept of revolution can be seen in two main categories, the pre-modern revolutionary approaches, and the modern revolutionaries. The modern version would be something more linear with my current perception of revolution. A radical, novel change, that is not trying to fall back to tradition, as with Kumar’s pre-modern definition of revolution but rather a political upheaval that we have seen more recently in revolutionary politics. We can see this more radical and novel revolution with the French Revolution. The complete upheaval of society, which has been said to be the “epitome” of revolution and described as “the triumph of human will against an unjust society.” (Kumar) The Reign of Terror and the extreme politically driven violence that was all in spite of Feudalism and uprising against authority to demand rights and completely change the political structure of the society, not through necessary party political means, as Kumar describes with the Greeks, but by pure anger and demanding destruction that led to no choice but to start over, not from tradition but from a complete restructuring of the political system. This all brings me to Arendt’s excerpt which goes far greater into detail about violence and what war and revolutions have not only revealed to society with the notions of human nature but also the change that has spurred from these politically driven violent revolutions and wars. For Arendt, this politically driven violence is beyond the true definition of revolution. She states, “while the elements of novelty, beginning, and violence, all intimately associated with our notion of revolution, are conspicuously absent from the original meaning of the word as well as from its first metaphoric use in political language.” (Arendt) But instead, action and speech and more productive ways of participating in politics are more revolutionary than the past violence associated with revolutions. Arendt, in my opinion, has this very hopeless romantic way of looking towards what would be the best or ideal ways for humans to pressure for political change. Unfortunately, I have a more cynical view of the world and human nature. I do not believe there can be a world without war, political violence, or the ever-evolving forms of political revolutions. As for my own definition of revolution in comparison to both Kumar’s and Arendt’s, mine would be an upheaval of society by means of political change. Who knows, maybe in the near future we will have more of a tech-forward revolution, one like the world has never seen before.


According to the text by Krishan Kumar, revolution is not something extreme that happens every once in a while rather it is a collective of history as a whole. He argues that there can be no set-in-stone definition of revolution “that assumes some permanent, unvarying meaning, stretching across space and time.” (Kumar). This argument he is making about how we define revolution is quite compelling because the nature of each political revolution is unique. Some revolutions seek radical change in the political system and some revolutions seek to overthrow the new governments and revert to the old ways just two examples of the countless different variables and motivators that make revolutions unique. Kumar argues that revolution is inevitable with the passing of history and time. Revolution in his eyes is something that can never be resisted by the human will as it is just a natural consequence of time passing and history happening and can not be simply defined or put into a box because of the nuances of each revolution something I find unconvincing. Hannah Arendt argues that modern political revolutions can not be compared to the wars for change in ancient civilizations. She believes in the idea that for a modern revolution to be successful should create a new government altogether. She is a huge admirer of the American revolution which she thinks was a massive success while she is very critical of the French revolution she states “The greatest revolutionary innovation, Madison’s discovery of the federal principle for the foundation of large republics” and “The sad truth of the matter is that the French Revolution, which ended in disaster”(Arendt). She is so critical of the French Revolution because it failed at establishing a government that allowed for any more freedom or virtue for the citizens. The French people still lived in squalor and were ultimately subjected to similar levels of suffering. The American revolution on the other hand set up a government in which the people were given freedom and allowed to vote to keep the pain and suffering of the American people to a level significantly lower than before their revolution. I find this argument less compelling because in my opinion there is no need for an entirely new government for a revolution. My definition of revolution is acts of political violence that attempt to intervene in the political society. My definition falls in between Kumar and Arendt because I agree with Kumar that every revolution is different and therefore they can not be defined as all the same actions, while I agree that the goal must be to change the government significantly as Arendt sees. I believe that a revolution must start from within without any influence from outside nations, modern examples that count as revolutions in my eyes are the Russian revolution and the more recent Arab spring, while an event that does not count as a revolution according to my definition is the Libyan civil war because of the strong influence of an outside power. My definition is better than other definitions of revolution because it allows for classification between revolutions and political violence that are not revolutionary acts, while also acknowledging that every attempted revolution has different variables and can even fail but still be called a revolution.


The term revolution has been around for centuries and best describes many different events throughout history. One of the concepts or definitions that I noticed that both Kumar and Arendt have similarities on is that revolution somewhat has to do with freedom as being the ultimate goal. I lean more towards Kumar’s modern concept or definition of the word revolution as being one that is for progression and transformation. “Changing conditions brought about modifications to the inherited concept of revolution.” (Kumar, 2120). According to Kumar when a revolution ends up bringing an authoritarian state or violence, its ultimately not a revolution anymore. This would be a betrayal to the act of a revolution because freedom is jeopardized. I still stay unconvinced as to Kumar’s pre-modern concept of revolution. I don’t see how revolution could want to be or be returning to the way things were before like a cyclical repetition of historical events. We study history to learn from it so history does not repeat itself and we are constantly evolving and learning, so to go back and want to repeat a pre-modern day pattern, does not convince me on how revolution should be understood. According to Arendt, her modern concept of revolution includes the idea that history begins once more or a fresh start and that is synonymous with the idea of freedom. She differentiates the concepts of liberation and freedom, though liberation “may be the condition of freedom.” And with this she also disagrees with the claim that “all modern revolutions are essentially Christian in origin,” (Arendt, 25), stating “no revolution was ever made in the name of Christianity prior to the modern age,” (Arendt, 27), but due to inequality. The views of religion and revolution is a pre-modern thought. I completely agree with this and this ties into my definition of the word revolution because I believe that whenever there are protests, sit-ins, rally’s, marches, etc., its never about religion. It always has to do with wanting to be treated fairly and about our rights as humans. To me, a revolution is an act that leads to the ultimate goal. That goal has to do with freedom and progressing for what is fair and what is right. I believe that my definition of the word revolution is related and a mix of both Kumar and Arendt because not only do I agree that revolution does not come from Christianity or religion, but it also ties into freedom and fairness as being the ultimate goal. To me, revolution means a sudden change that has a goal of freedom and equality for the better good of the people. The American Revolution, the March on Washington, and the countless Women Marches are just a few examples of different “revolutions” or protests for changes that lead to equality and freedom throughout history. The French Revolution is one I do not consider an example of revolution per my definition because they ultimately ended up appointing a dictator for a leader.


According to Kumar, a definition for “revolution cannot be seen as a timeless thing, lacking change and variety” (Kumar, 1) – arguing that every human notion, such as revolutions, have a history and that if there’s history then that must mean change and so there cannot be any “essentialist definition of revolution” or an account that assumes an unvarying message indefinitely. Reading the text, I felt Kumar gives an extensive background on examples of “revolutions” and whatnot but does not give a straightforward definition of what he considers a “revolution” to be, and I cannot withdraw a definition from the context provided because his examples do not correlate. Kumar gives examples of what different groups and societies through time might have defined a “revolution” as but gives no personal definition.

Kumar used the French Revolution to provide one semi-definition of what a “revolution” is in modern times: “… the creation of something radically new: something never before seen in the world, a new system of society, a new civilization a new world” (Kumar, 2117-2118). While I don’t completely disagree with this definition of what a “revolution” is, I don’t feel it is how he truly views “revolutions”.

According to Arendt, a revolution is a notion that is motivated by new beginnings with ideals of freedom. She thoroughly distinguishes the difference between freedom and liberation and proceeds to explain that it is through liberation that people can find freedom. Regardless of this, it is difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. Personally, I found this interesting because society tends to interchange liberation and freedom freely as if there was no difference between the two when there is. Note the clearest difference, “liberty” could be established under a monarchy, but political “freedom” can only ever exist under a republic.

Arendt states that though revolutions are often used to justify wars and “violence on the grounds of an original evil inherent in human affairs … revolutions are the only political events which confront us directly and inevitably with the problem of beginning” (Arendt, 21). I found this to be a very interesting quote because of how true it is. In times of war, we often see the word “revolution” all over history books – justifying mass violence – all under the false pretenses of new beginnings, however, when the war ends, things go right back to how they were before and so it begs the question: what is a “revolution” truly? A way to justify violence or as Arendt defines it, a notion of “political events that confront us [with reality]” motivated by ideals of freedom?

I’d define a “revolution” as a society’s last resort when it comes to demanding change, with the shared ideals Arendt talked about, freedom, both, social and political. I’d define a “revolution” as a means to an end to reach a specific and very certain goal. In my opinion, while I do see and understand Kumar’s opinion, I feel he contradicts himself saying that “revolutions” are something that cannot be defined because it has a human history and is ever evolving but then proceeding to give various definitions of what it is and has been through time and what it has meant at different points in history per se. I feel my ideas have more in common with Arendt and her definition of “revolution”; I share her view point of seeing revolutions as political notions that confront us with a severed line of expectation and reality in our world and the urgent call to action with such ideals of freedom and change.


Across both readings I found that both gave a solid foundation for how revolution should be understood from the modern perspective. What piqued my interest towards Kumar’s explanation is that they included the original use of the word from the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. I find that the original use helps give a better understanding of the word. Arendt similarly builds historical context to give a deeper understanding of the word. Both authors use this understanding to show how ‘revolution’ went from being understood as a part of the political cycle to being eclipsed by its use in popular culture as a descriptor of something that had been seen as a divine process shifting into human influence. From my personal perspective on the past and my place in history it seems to be true as the modern era progressed, we as a species, took things into our own hands rather than waiting for the right circumstances. However with this in mind, I am not convinced that we are entirely separated from fate as Arendt noted, “Robespierre, was constantly accelerated by the ‘crimes of tyranny’, on one side, by the _’progress of liberty’”. This leads me to think that although we as people are key contributors to our personal actions we cannot be sure of the larger outcome. This applies largely to revolution in that the actors were not initially seen as revolutionary but only labeled as such after the fact. After having read from both excerpts and drawing my own conclusion, I believe that the definition of revolution from a modern standpoint should be able to encompass a variety of spheres. The examples given in large are that of the French and American Revolutions respectively, which is not limited in any sense given their importance in setting precedence for how revolution is defined. However, in my understanding the definition can and should be able to cover things such a technological revolution, or cultural revolution. To be understood strictly from a political sense is a disservice to the depth of the word, this is supported by Kumar’s inclusion of the original religious and astrological roots of the word. With this in mind I would also include Arendt’s use of Alexis de Tocqueville’s words and addition, “one might have believed the aim of the coming revolution was not the overthrow of the old regime but its restoration’. Even when in the course of both revolutions the actors became aware of the impossibility of restoration and of the need to embark upon an entirely new enterprise”. This supports my idea that although the human intentions set the tone for the desired outcome, there is still a hint of the old definition of the word in that it is a cycle of unconscious longing to find restoration of the natural cycles. To give a complete description, I would say revolution is an unconscious process in which a chain of events lead by decisions by individuals with a common goal leads to an unforeseen but welcomed (not desired) outcome. This would include the traditional modern sense of the word given to the French and American revolutions but also expand to include the Industrial Revolution. The rise of the internet, and more specifically Amazon could also be a revolution in that an original idea (to sell books) expanded to become something entirely unforeseen (e-commerce) but entirely welcome (one of the most profitable businesses in the world). This expanded definition gives room to create a more whole understanding and allow for more precise application. Something that wouldn’t be included for example could be the invention of the electric car, although new and innovative it wouldn’t change things in a revolutionary way with there being a prior version (the gas automobile) that sufficiently provides a similar output.


  • Kumar’s claims are very similar to Arendt’s when it comes to the origin of the Revolution. From Kumar’s perspective, Revolution is a European invention. “Revolution, finally, is a European invention. The meaning that it has in the world today derives from European use and experience” (Kumar, “Revolution”,2113). This claim is vague since he doesn’t go into details as to how. Additionally, both of them agree Revolution did not “exit” before the modern age. According to Kumar, “Revolution is an invention of Western modernity. In its generally understood meaning today, it was unknown in the ancient world. Nor was it understood in our sense in the European Middle Ages, or in the early modern period. It was only in the eighteenth century, with the American and French Revolutions, that the word revolution acquired its modern connotation of fundamental and far-reaching change” (Kumar, “Revolution”,2113). In this claim, he explains how before the French Revolution and American Revolution the concept of Revolution was unknown to people and had no meaning. I find this claim to be interesting because in a way he is not entirely saying it did not “exit” rather there was no word for it. On the other hand, Arendt’s claim is “Historically, wars are among the oldest phenomena of the recorded past while revolutions, properly, speaking did not exist before the modern age; they are among the most recent of all major political data” (Arendt, On Revolution,12). Arendt’s statement explains how revolution is a word from the modern age in contrast to war there has been the norm for the concept of change.

    My definition of Revolution is forcing a radical replacement of the government (often with violence) due to a failed government, that succeeds.  In my definition, I included ends with success because most of the Revolutions we think of as “revolutions” are those that were successful. Additionally, the French Revolution is known as the “pioneer” of Revolutions but only because it was successful. “The concept of revolution became one of the triumphs of human will against an unjust society” (Kumar, “Revolution”,2114). Also, I remain unconvinced but also compelled to the idea that the fascist revolution wouldn’t be considered a true revolution. I find that idea interesting because He quotes, “the word revolutionary can only be applied to revolutions which have liberty as their object” (Kumar, “Revolution”,2120). What Kumar is trying to imply is that only “left-wing” revolutions that have been successful are recent versions of the French Revolution where the aim was liberty unlike the fascists were their aim would be inequality and racism. Therefore, to him, there have been no right-wing revolutions because “fascist ideology simply has not been part of the revolutionary inheritance” (Kumar, “Revolution”,2120). This perspective makes me wonder if I should add to my definition the concept of “left-wing” revolutions. My definition is better than what we usually use because is generalized but at the same time is using specific keywords that let you know faster what a revolution is.

    Additionally, to my last point, the concept of a fascist revolution still wouldn’t be considered a revolution although I’m not using the terms “left-wing” or “right-wing” since the Nazi (fascists) tried to actually do a revolution, but they weren’t successful also known as the “Beer Hall Putsch.” Also, some other events that do not “count as revolutions” based on my definition: the Hungarian Revolution of 1865, the American Revolutionary War of 1775-79, 1827 French Revolution all of these “Revolutions” failed. Some events that would count as revolutions would be the French Revolution, the Soviet Revolution, the Haitian revolution, The Chinese Communist Revolution, and the Cuban Revolution. All of these revolutions had as a goal to overthrow the government and they were successful. Only successful revolutions continue to have an impact and are spoken about (positively or negatively) while the failed ones are completely forgotten.


    Plenty of revolutions have occurred across the globe, but what is a revolution? Hannah Arendt’s book ‘On Revolution’ defines revolution as an event that marks the introduction of a new political realm. In contrast, Krishan Kumar’s entry in the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas defines revolution as more of a broad term that encompasses both political and social factors.

    For starters, Arendt argues that a revolution is not merely a violent uprising but a significant event that introduces a new political system, characterized by the creation of a new society, institutions and ways of thinking. Arendt uses the American and French Revolutions as examples of actual revolutions because they led to the creation of new political systems and ideals. She emphasizes the importance of mass participation in the American and French Revolutions and argues that these revolutions were successful because they were driven by a deep-seated desire for political freedom and equality.

    On the other hand, Krishan Kumar emphasizes the broader range of social and political transformations that are encompassed by the term revolution. Kumar argues that revolutions can occur in various fields, including, economics, and culture, and can lead to profound changes in society. In Kumar’s entry on revolution he writes, “Nor did the comparisons remain solely in the political field. The technological and economic developments transforming England in the early nineteenth century were seen in the 1820s as “the industrial revolution”….to refer to the thoroughgoing changes in artistic practice and in scientific thought in that period.” (Kumar, pg. 2118). Kumar’s analysis of the Industrial Revolution emphasizes the power of technological innovation in reshaping society and the economy since it led to a new capitalist system.

    Based on the readings, I believe a revolution can be defined as a significant social and political event that introduces a new political system, characterized by the creation of new institutions, social norms, and power structures. A revolution occurs when people’s grievances reach a critical point, leading to the breakdown of the existing political order. The transformative power of a revolution extends beyond politics, and includes social, economic, and cultural aspects of it. This definition is superior to others in that it captures the complex nature of revolution, involving both political and social factors. Additionally, it recognizes that revolutions are not merely violent uprisings but complex events that involve the creation of new institutions and social norms.

    Furthermore, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States is an example of a revolution, it led to the introduction of new social norms and legal protections for minority groups. In contrast, events that do not qualify as revolutions include smaller-scale social or political changes like political protests or strikes that do not lead to a new political realm or significant transformations in society.

    In conclusion, a revolution is a complex social and political upheaval that introduces a new political realm and transforms society’s social, economic, and culture. The definition proposed here captures the multifaceted nature of revolution and distinguishes it from smaller-scale changes


    In the Arendt and Kumar texts about Revolution, I’ve found compelling the survey that the cause of freedom versus tyranny has always determined, in history, the very existence of politics. Also, the aim of the Revolution is freedom, even if freedom is at the center of all present political debates, the discussion of war, and the justifiable use of violence. Besides, with the fact that, in contrast with Revolution, war is rarely tied to freedom (even if against a foreign invader). I also agree with the criteria that it is impossible to gain a profound change in international relationships and disappear war from the scene of politics without a radical inner change in men’s hearts and minds, excluding from their minds the “other means” as their last resort. Revolution changes traditionally, looking at the future and consisting of a cycle that arises and falls, returning to the initial point.

    On the other hand, I strongly disagree with justifications for aggression to other countries to “prevent” other aggressions or terrorism, due to the high destructive potential of warfare under conditions of modern technology (nuclear weapons), neither with using the word “freedom” for justifying the destruction of countries.

    In my opinion, Revolution is a way of changing (for good and is not necessarily violent way despite the consideration of the growing mutual dependence on Revolution and war) all the social, political, and economic life of a country, looking for the well-being of the entire population, counting on food, health, infrastructure development, community satisfaction, country protection (as it is explained in the text the role of the army in protecting the civilian population instead of becoming an avenger essentially), and political interrelationship. I consider it the best choice of Revolution because it does not force the people to a commitment to the political order of a government but to exist as a people or country without vulnerating absolute freedom. It is possible unless a totalitarian tyranny thrives, pursuing the party’s enemies, annihilating the identity, plurality, and spontaneity, such as not allowing genuine and democratic elections (like the case of Cuba).
    Examples of revolutions are the independent process of the 13 colonies against England in 1776, the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799 in their beginning, and the independent movements of South America and Mexico from Spain.
    As examples of what are not revolutions, we may count the war in other countries, such as the conflicts Russia-Ukraine (allegedly motivated for fighting against Nazism), Taliban (motivated against the legalization of the feminist vote and nationalization of strategic branches of the economy) versus Afghan Army; Boko Haram (motivated against occidental culture) versus Nigerian Army and so many others that are fighting for the control of the countries despite the necessities of the civilian population.


    Today, we can consider a revolution to be a drastic change in political power and political organization, which typically happens when citizens go against their government. There can be many reasons why a revolution can happen. For example, it can be due to social, economic, and political reasons. After reading the texts by Kumar and Arendt, I found both views to be very interesting. According to Arendt, the word ‘revolution’ was originally an astronomical term that gained increasing importance in the natural sciences through Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. (PG.42) Arendt also questions Marxists on their beliefs that all modern revolutions originated through Christianity. She also believes that a revolution is a manifestation of human freedom and that in order to bring about significant social change, individuals must act as a group.

    In Kumar’s text, he mostly speaks about revolutions being driven by ideologies. He also mentions that the definition of  revolution cannot simply mean one thing. Due to revolution being history, it also means changes to its definition will arise. He also states that a revolution is a European invention. (PG2113).  One thing I found compelling about Kumar is the emphasis he puts on revolutionary movements needing to be clear with citizens about the kind of society they are aiming to form once the movement is over.

    I believe a revolution should mean transformative, political, economical, and social change driven by beliefs, living circumstances, and the right to assemble. This will also involve the overthrow of a current government or organization in hopes of meeting the needs of their citizens and country. Referring back to Kumar, it is essential that a revolution make its goals known to its citizens and that the people can be vocal without suffering consequences. I believe my definition is related to Arendt’s because we both mention that in order for a revolution to work, people must act together to make such a change. With Kumar, we both touch on how beliefs can be the spark of a revolution and are important to have so change can happen.

    The American Revolution is a war that fits my definition because it started due to beliefs like freedom, pursuit of happiness, and standards of living. Colonists were very enraged because their needs were not being met. Many colonists came together and revolted in order to have changes made politically, socially, and economically, which we benefit from today. Another example is the Haitian Revolution, where slaves went against French colonizers in order to have freedom. They were able to succeed and become the first black republic. Though the outcome of a revolution is to make changes, not always will they be necessary. The Civil Rights Movement abolished segregation, while the Gay Rights Movement allowed same-sex marriage. Both are examples of groups of people coming together and being able to create change, both socially and politically.

    Arendt, H. (1963). On Revolution.Penguin Books, First Published in the USA by The Viking Press (pgs. 1-50).

    Kumar, Revolution, New Dictionary of the History of Ideas


    What differentiates a revolution from a rebellion or even a coup? Historical context will aid with conceiving an answer. This is because “revolution” is defined by its modern and a pre modern use. Though both are centered around change, the pre modern version is about cyclical repetition while the modern version is about progress. The origin of the word can be traced to astronomy, hence the “cyclical repetition” in the aged rendition as well as the reference to planetary movement. The modern version, however, can only be applied to a change of special caliber, as new radical levels of change sprung out. Today historians would agree that, however bloody the conflict, traditional uprisings by traditional actors were rebellions not revolutions. Although a fictional example, Game of Thrones is filled with traditional uprisings and traditional actors. It is no coincidence the author commonly uses “rebellion” to describe current and past conflicts. There are no revolutionaries, the conflicts, at least between the humans, are to gain within the “throne” system: Declaring yourself king of a region or attempting to replace a king with another.
    In Krishan Kumar’s “Revolution” massive background is given about the concept. He explicitly states the concept as a European invention, he then proceeds with history as well as describing the essence of it. The English civil war is identified as the first great revolution. It not only resulted in the execution of a king but in definitive progress via constitutional rights. Progress is the key word here, some see revolutions as stepping stones toward the eventual steady state of history. Past revolutions are incomplete so far until a specific revolution succeeds. The English civil war is used as a standard of what is a revolution. Then we have the American Revolution, also known as the “shot heard around the world”. The American Revolution, though perhaps viewed more conservatively, is a strong one. This revolution paved the way for American values, institutions, and standing. Additionally, it inspired many wars of independence as well as other revolutionary tales. One of them, and of course the model of the concept, is the French Revolution. It is widely hailed as the epitome of revolutions, the one which all others are compared against. This event was not just a war of independence or a war for reforms, it was a brutal rejection of an entire system. After it France would export the revolution, defining the course of history.
    Krishan, in his text, adds certain requirements for revolution. He claims there is no right-wing concept of revolution. There are a few problems with how he presents it. For starters his reasoning doesn’t seem to be backed by definition, rather it seems it’s based on connotation. This logic is not strong enough to make a right wing revolution an oxymoron. Second, only the libertarian left wing and fascist right-wing are compared. Whether a different right wing revolution can exist should be answered. Overall it could still be the case that objectively there is no such thing as a right-wing revolution, nevertheless the reasoning presented in the text doesn’t definitively prove that.
    Hanna Arendt, in her difficult read, creates a standard to judge revolutions. She considers both the Russian and French revolutions to be failures and disasters, while the American revolution a triumphant success. Her standard is aftermath, but of course the aftermath is endogenous to the principles of which it is built. The French revolution lacked vision and was undermined as a result. Furthermore, it made every violent upheaval be interpreted as the continuation of the original movement. She continues to say the Russians learned “history and not action” from the French, if history had no other role than the villain for them then they would be willing to play it.
    For the US she had nothing but appraisal. She claims though separated from the motherland, the US became an industrialized success that receives mass immigration.


    The thing that stood out to me most in both writings was this through-line of European/Western influence on the world and the act of revolution. They both spoke vividly on the connection of the American and French revolution and how they ultimately frame the discourse around the concept of revolting in the 19th Century onto the present day. I gravitate more towards Kumar’s explanation because I think he gives a little more leeway for the topic of colonization. He states, “The theory and practice of revolution was carried […] along the paths laid out by the European empires, formal and informal.” I personally think, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, that all political phenomena of the 21st Century does stem back to Europe.

    When it comes to Arendt and her explanation on the relation between war and revolution, I do agree with her that revolution is violent. In her words, violence is only justified in revolution when it constitutes ‘political limitation’. She also delves more into the idea of the ‘revolutionary spirit’ and how that expresses the ideals of individual autonomy in the face of oppression. However, and maybe this wasn’t her intention, I think it’s important to examine how multiple different institutions perpetuate oppression and who is using what terminology to justify violence and the demand for change. ‘Political limitation’ is a concept that can be change depending on who is framing the narrative.

    To me, revolution is the forceful success of a certain portion of the population in, permanently or temporarily, changing the regime running the current affairs of the state. Revolution is a European construct as framed by Kumar but it’s only because revolution was the answer for those oppressed by the wealth of Europe, whether it be on their own land or on foreign. The world of the 21st Century is a reflection of revolution against colonial powers. In this case it is also inherently tied to poverty, as expressed by Arendt.

    Egypt underwent a revolution through the 1952 coup of it’s monarchy and the subsequent removal of England occupation, and then again in the Arab Spring Protests that took place in 2011; since it did ultimately end the regime of the long standing president and replace him with fair elections and a new constitution; it didn’t last very long but it still happened. To get into hopeful hypotheticals, if the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were to successfully establish a sovereign state that would be a revolution against Israeli colonization. If the Lares Uprising in Puerto Rico would’ve succeeded then that would’ve been a revolution against the Spanish government.


    A political revolution is a significant change in the political system of a society, which can occur in various forms, such as a social movement and coup d’états. Political revolutions typically involve a fundamental shift in power and authority within a society, which leads to changes in government structure, policies, and values.

    After reading the text written by Kumar, the statement “The Russian understanding of revolution has been different from that of the French, and that too from the English or American, which have in their turn differed from German or Spanish conceptions” (Kumar, 2113), stood out to me. Looking back on various geopolitical revolutions, they all have fundamental differences. Depending upon where each nation is now, different rights are being fought for. Because their histories are so different, their objectives and perspectives vary as well. A point I do remain unconvinced by, though, is found in the text written by Arendt, “Still, without the French Revolution it may be doubted that philosophy would ever have attempted to concern itself with the realm of human affairs” (Arendt, 53). Humans are egocentric, and while I wouldn’t say that a political revolution is egocentric in and of itself, its justification for taking place is. Regardless of the French Revolution, philosophy would have been concerned with human issues since humans are too self-centered or concerned with mankind.

    At its core, a political revolution should represent the will of the people to create a more just and equitable society. This means addressing longstanding issues such as economic inequality, social injustice, and political corruption. It requires a deep understanding of the structural forces that perpetuate these problems and a willingness to tackle them head-on.

    One of the most famous examples of a political revolution is the American Revolution (1765-1783), which resulted in the formation of the United States. Several problems, including taxation without representation, trade restrictions, and military occupation, which caused a general feeling of unease among the American colonists, served as the fuel for the revolution. After the triumphant removal of British rule, a new government centered on the values of democracy, freedom, and individual rights was established. The French Revolution (1789–1799), which resulted in the overthrow of the French monarchy, is another example of a political revolution. Widespread poverty, food shortages, and excessive taxes were only a few of the social and economic issues that led to the revolution. With the establishment of a republic, the aristocracy’s privileges were eliminated, and new political institutions based on the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity were established.

    The Russian Revolution is a prime example of a revolution that did not represent the will of the people. While the revolution began as a popular uprising against the Tsarist regime, it was later taken over by the Bolsheviks, who formed a communist government that was very repressive and totalitarian. The new government did not represent the will of the people and failed to bring about the promised reforms, resulting in widespread


    Before reading these two pieces of scholarship and previous to this class, my idea of revolution was entirely based on the idea of a complete change. I am a history major, and naturally, I have studied the events of the French and Russian Revolutions (mostly) as my main examples. But after reading these two scholars’ works, there are things I agree with and very few I disagree with. I completely agree with the fact that Arandt states that “revolution as we know it in the modern age has always been concerned with both liberation and freedom” (Arendt, 32), but as she mentions, freedom and liberation are indeed different. Kumar certainly agrees with this statement, when citing Condorcet (Kumar, 2120 which is also cited by Arendt in 29). From Kumar, I do agree with the fact that the French Revolution is the model of all the revolutions (Kumar, 2117) that came after, and that revolution is indeed a Western concept. What I disagree with Arendt is that revolution is always tied to violence (Arendt, 18). As we saw in Kumar, some of the events we have called in history are not at all violent: the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, etc. Finally, I have not convinced by both of the scholar’s statements that revolution came from a cyclical nature: for me, this lies with movements such as the tripartite humanist view of the Renaissance (Ancient, Medieval, Modern) of Petrarch (for anyone who is familiar with this). I never saw revolution as “coming back to how things were before” but rather to drive society to a completely new way of living. Indeed, I do agree with the beginning of Kumar’s chapter that the concept of revolution, like history, has changed (Kumar, 2112). All the examples both scholars tell us: English Civil War, French Revolution, American Revolution, Latin American revolutions, are all different. And with this, every single philosopher or scholar has come up with a different view of what revolution is: Marx, Hegel, etc; and I am sure that the scholars that come after will be defining revolution differently.
    Now taking all of this into account, my alternative definition of revolution is the following: “Revolution is a concept of change of the current ways of living. It is a movement that can be considered social, psychological, intellectual, cultural, or political, and it is driven either by frustration from the current way of living and seeking freedom, or by the craving for a new way of living and seeking advancement. Revolution can be performed via violent or non-violent means, and it is an ever-changing concept as the society develops.”
    As you can see, this definition is derived from my main points above in which I agree with the two scholars, leaving out or actually modifying the ones I disagree with or am not convinced with. I tried for this definition to compensate all of the arguments Arendt and Kumar tell us in the text.


    To believe that the term “revolution” has had the same meaning since its inception is foolish, as times have changed so has the meaning of the word. The definition, I believe aptly describes revolution in the modern context, is the overthrow of a government typically due to perceived oppression or political incompetence, while in favor of a new system. I believe this definition is better as it can fit a broader area of historical events that deserve the classification as a revolution, including negating the belief by some that revolutions are inherently violent, or that liberal objectives like freedom or liberty is what defines a revolution.

    This has been argued by people like Nicolas de Condorcet, who stated in 1793 “the word revolutionary can only be applied to revolutions which have liberty as their object”. (Kumar 2120) Yet believing this would result in most if not all socialist revolutions as not being qualified as a revolution when it surely is one due to my definition of revolution as socialist revolutions like the Cuban Revolution or the Russian Revolution of 1917 did in fact overthrow the government in favor of a new system. It is common knowledge now that the Union of Soviet Republics or USSR would soon experience its own revolutions known as the Revolutions of 1989 which saw multiple demonstrations escalate into full-scale movements which ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and dismantling of the USSR. In fact, in relation to the Revolutions of 1989, Romania was the only state that used violence to overthrow its communist regime.

    This directly connects to my definition as revolutions shouldn’t require the inclusion of violence, there are ways to have a peaceful revolution while still adhering to my definition. This could be supported summarizing Ardent’s argument that the existence of war could be eradicated, but revolution would remain a fundamental question, thus showing that revolution wouldn’t always involve violence or, at the very least, take the place of war as the deciding factor in the rise or fall of a nation. My definition can also connect to the collapse of the Spanish Empire due to the subsequent revolutions of most of her colonies in Latin and Central America are prime examples of this, after all, most if not all disregarded the establishment of monarchies or for only brief periods would have such form but eventually transition into their democratic or socialist ideologies we see today.

    With all of this considered, I don’t believe events like the American Civil War or the English Civil War deserves to be labeled as a revolution, although the latter might’ve restructured its former monarchist government into a parliamentary republic, it still held colonial possessions and often oppressing those for centuries to come, essentially holding on to their imperial identity. The same could be said for the American Civil War, although there was a “new understanding” of societal aspects like the immorality of slavery, there was no direct nor new change in governance. As Kumar best explains this, “Revolution was a speeding up of evolution. It was an action by which men changed utterly the way they had traditionally done things. It looked to the future, not to the past.” (Kumar 2118) Which revolves back to my original definition that revolutions should be defined as the overthrow of a government typically due to perceived oppression or political incompetence, while in favor of a new system. 


    Both authors seem to agree on a pre-modern and modern notion of revolution. The idea of revolution as a cyclical process rather than a transformational one, is mentioned not only by Kumar but also by Arendt, who says that “the word revolution was originally an astronomical term. . .  characterized neither by newness nor by violence” (42). The understanding of the pre-modern idea of revolution is important in order to understand the modern one and/or forge a new notion ourselves.

    Kumar’s idea that revolution is a European concept is indeed ambiguous, but I think what he means is that the revolutionary processes adopted in America, Latin America, and other places, were greatly influenced (if not completely shaped) by the revolutions in Europe, and this idea makes sense. However, the idea that revolutions are only associated with the political left restricts the conceptual and historical meaning of the word and helps me define revolution by myself as a social and collective process that promotes positive or negative change in a specific geopolitical area. Per Kumar, the aim of revolution is freedom and liberty, but this conception denies all the revolutions that have pursuit the recognition of different rights not only associated to political freedom or liberty.

    Arendt’s thoughts are very compelling even though the idea of a modern world without wars may seem absurd at first. In the context of the Cold War, it might have been reasonable to think that wars could disappear. First, because of the nature of the nuclear weapons governments could not possibly expect to survive a war defeat and remain in power, but especially because military goals were no longer to win the war but to “develop weapons that would make war impossible” (Arendt 16) in this sense, it may have been forceable that the world was heading to a war-free era but may our “perplexity in this matter indicates our lack of preparedness for a disappearance of war” (Arendt 14).

    About the interrelation between war and revolution, Arendt doesn’t seem to think that violent revolutions have necessary been related to freedom, neither do I, but this is not the same as to say that “revolutions, properly speaking did not exist until prior to the modern age” (12), because prior to what it’s known as the modern age there were several revolutions led by different causes even if the participating societies did not conceive revolution in the same way was we do now. Gravity was not understood as gravity until the 19th century but there has always exited gravity… In the context of politics and powers, Moises driving the Jews out of Egypt and revealing against the repressive forces was a revolutionary movement and this happened way before the modern era.

    The concept of revolution needs to be atemporal and historical, first, because there has been lots of revolutions, violent ones and non-violent as well, second, because the aim of these movements is to encourage change, whether the change is positive or negative is debate for another time, revolutions in the pre and modern era are characterized by defiant forces that promote some kind of collective change and even if wars disappear altogether (this will not happen) revolutions, novelty, and human capacities will never fade away.


    Revolution at least from what the readings suggest, is something insanely difficult to define, so an attempt at that would likely be better to carry a more perceptive view to it. I’m convinced that Revolution can be defined many different ways depending on the context of using the word revolution. For example, Bernie Sanders in the 2016 US Primaries ran on using the word revolution. to attract the minds of youthful people. But, Bernie didn’t mean a full on physical revolution which is how many people would mostly perceive the word Revolution. He meant it as a movement to get out there and spread a more leftist ideology movement inside the Democratic party. More Americans would perceive the word Revolution as a battle. Where you have winners and losers. Where people are injured and it can be viewed as personal. I believe this derives from history classes growing up learning about the Revolutionary War. For God sakes we created the country we are today based on a revolution. So the closest I could come to a definition of “Revolution” would be; “A revolution can be defined as a movement or attempt at change in any connotation whether that’s through violence, speeches, protests, etc.” I like this definition for revolution because of how diverse the word revolution has been used throughout history and in the English language. I find it interesting from the readings how revolution has different meanings from Europe and that of the western civilization, But at the end of the day id presume that we as humans could come to agreement that we would know what revolution means in every situation where its present because the context clues would point us in the right direction. I’ve noticed that Revolution is easy to define in the circumstances where it has risen from. But giving revolution one definition is arguably impossible. I mean lets be honest, Revolution has multiple different definitions. While defining Revolution with context clues may seem simple. It’s the furthest thing from that because how advanced revolution can be depending on the situation at hand. Revolutions have many different stages throughout them. You have swings from one side of the revolution is winning and the other is downright just trying to survive. Long story short with that example is that not all revolution are simple and can’t be defined as such. One fact about Revolution is it always involves change. The outcome and ending of the Revolution won’t leave anything the same when it’s finished. So I agree with Kumar, It might be fully impossible to define what Revolution truly and fully is.


    Revolution, a powerful phenomenon, involves the attempt to radically change the foundation of the public realm and transform the existing political order. The spirit of revolution is dependent on the pursuit of freedom. Hannah Arendt, the author of On Revolution, emphasizes the importance of freedom on the account of war and revolution as the ultimate and “…most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics…”. Ardent essentially determines that true revolutions are about the establishment of freedom. An important component intertwined with revolution is the collective participation and will of the people. Krishan Kumar’s entry on Revolution in the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas features revolution as ‘quintessentially man-made’ and “…the action of [the] human will and human reason upon an imperfect and unjust world, to bring into being the good society”. Similarly, Ardent emphasizes this point by stating, “[t]he life of a free man needed the presence of others. Freedom itself needed, therefore, a place where people could come together…the political space proper”. It is the action of the people that make a revolution effective and enables change throughout various sectors of society. Uniformly, Kumar and Ardent stance reflects the significance of human influence in the development of a true revolution.

    For many, the word revolution may simply be associated with a rebellion against a certain government or the need for change. However, a true revolution is a complex phenomenon that is made up of various components. It engages the idea of freedom, the experience of freedom, and the experience of novelty or a new beginning. Analyzing the intricate evolution and the foundation of a revolution gives light to a more in-depth notion of what revolution truly is. I believe that the Russian Revolution meets the conditions of a true revolution. This multifaceted event annihilated the centuries of Russian Imperial rule and ended the Romanov dynasty’s influence in the political sphere, eventually forming the Soviet Union. From my knowledge of the Russian revolution, the common people were desperate and seeking freedom from the clutches of the czar’s rule. An example of what is not considered a revolution is when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected as president of Türkiye on June 24, 2018, as the first president of the presidential system of government; prior to 2018, they were a parliamentary representative democracy. While there was a change in leadership and type of government, there was no fundamental transformation or upheaval from the people seeking freedom.


    The indefinite meaning of Revolution is most commonly known as a usual violent way of fighting for the change of political power and/or political organizations in a set society. In simpler words, a Revolution is categorized as an attempt by a multitude of individuals to put an end to an existing government to create a new one. On the other hand, my definition of what Revolution means is a way of changing something not usually for the better but to comply with the ideas and ideals of those masses moving forward with a Revolution. A proposition of what Revolution should mean is not necessarily war or violence, it should just be a movement created by society to shift a government or idea towards what they think is better for them, fighting for their freedom. This of course is not so true after all. “Yet if it was amazing to see how the very word freedom could disappear from the revolutionary vocabulary…”, Arendt mentioned in “On Revolution”.[1] As Arendt mentioned in “On Revolution”, the word freedom is being taken away from Revolution as is not always that Revolution happens for a better way of life or freedom. The majority of revolutions are started by individuals or organizations motivated by idealistic beliefs and aspirations for a fairer future. Although the old system struggles to hold onto authority, these rebels try to alter or topple it. Separation, disturbance, controversy, and strife are the results, and these things can result in bloody wars, brutality, and misery among people. At some point, the rebels succeed and begin working to improve civilization. Most of the time, they find that this is considerably harder than they initially thought. This said, let’s take my native country as an example. In Cuba, there was a Revolution from 1953 to 1959 that was put in motion by Fidel Castro. This Revolution was depicted by the fact a group of people disputed the government at the time and they simply just fought their way into destroying such government. Castro was successful and Cuba’s freedom “started” from that point on. “As a humanly made event, revolution cannot be seen as a timeless thing, lacking change and variety.” [2] This said lots of us know that freedom later started to break done and in today’s time many see that revolution as a downgrade from what Cuba used to be. Not saying that Batista (Cuba’s president before Castro’s Revolution) was a great leader, but it turns out Fidel was not one either. In conclusion, the meaning of what a Revolution should be depicted is a very complicated topic, there would never be a set rule for such a movement.


    Revolution can be defined as a turning point or transformation in an attempt to change an established or recognized order, such change could manifest within a state’s political, technological, economic, or social structure, brought about by collective action, ideological movements, etc..

    Hannah Arendt’s arguments in “On Revolution” highlight the transformative nature of revolutions and their potential to create new political communities. Stating that revolutions are not merely about replacing the current leadership, but about creating a new system of government based on popular sovereignty and active citizenship. This definition is evident in the American Revolution, where colonists sought to overthrow British rule and establish a new system of government based on democratic principles; characterized by rapid political change in an attempt to break free from oppression and tyranny.

    Contrastingly,  Krishan Kumar’s arguments in “Revolution” dictate the importance of ideas and ideologies in shaping revolutionary movements. Kumar emphasizes that revolutions are not necessarily violent or destructive, but can also be peaceful and transformative. He also notes the importance of social and economic conditions in driving revolutionary change. Kumar’s arguments are evident in the Indian Independence Movement, where Mahatma Gandhi led a nonviolent revolution against British colonial rule. Gandhi’s ideology of nonviolence and his vision of a free and united India inspired a mass movement that ultimately led to the country’s independence.

    In light of these arguments, my proposed definition of revolution emphasizes the transformative, multifarious nature of revolutions; recognizing and subscribing to Kumar’s notion that a number of revolutions do not necessarily need to be manifested physically (in accordance with the established western mainstream perspective) as there at times will be a lack of violence or destruction and the proposed change can be brought on by other means; taking different forms. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of collective action in achieving revolutionary goals and the need for the presence of some type of struggle, tension, or desire for progress whilst grappling with oppression. Additionally, it appears that “revolutions” and their inceptions are an idea that can be contended and that has no objective, inherent truth or definition. At present, I offer my proposed interpretation but have no worldly experience of revolutionary change to subsume and do not claim to believe that my definition is far better than any others. Instead, I aim to emphasize the syntactic complexities and the expansive perspectives that may arise out of this discussion in an attempt to illustrate the claim that revolutions, ultimately, are not only a radical and violent political alteration but are transformative in many aspects in an attempt to seek liberation.


    Revolution is not an ancient term, rather it is modern whose first manifestations were the French Revolution and the Civil War. Which broke out after moments of abuse and repression therefore in seeking Freedom and Hope for change, he opened himself to protests for change. Although these important events of the 18th century brought the revolutionary model and gave meaning to the term revolution. However, in ancient times, according to the proposals of Plato, Thucydides, and Aristotle, none of them spoke of the revolution as we know it today, but they spoke of the fulfillment of political cycles and conflicts with factions.

    Revolution, it is said is the search for new things, the need for change, and the questioning of the leader’s work, which are things that push and incline a revolution. That ideological approach of starting over, and opening to new things was not always the engine when they spoke out for a revolution. Well, during times in history, the revolution has had various meanings, such as restoring, overthrowing, freedom, and change of constitution, among others. For the American Revolution, the context and meaning of revolution is restoration, and its extension came to ideologically conquer many other minds, who adopted the revolutionary movement throughout America, for example, Simon Bolivar spread his idealism of a republic in Latin America and managed to bring transformation.

    On the other hand, the terms conflict and revolution cannot be confused since they are not the same. Since the revolution seeks to transform and change the state or government, propose changes. While the conflict brings with it violence and more problems than proposing solutions. The revolution has currently been viewed with hope because it promotes social changes and a restructuring of power and government. To see this change, a strong pronouncement of the people is needed, of the masses that push this transformation in the state institutions, government, and Society itself. For me, revolution implies the rejection of the present things and hope in the future, with the interest of establishing another reality. A revolution has the power to question the established order and mobilize large masses until it manages to implement structural changes in society. Despite the debate between theorists about what is and what is not a revolution, historical events show that the origins of the revolution can have several reasons. The revolution as such can even be peaceful, although almost always some violence is present since the confrontation between conservationists and revolutionaries, who yearn for change, see opposing factions as inevitable.


    In discussing the realm of revolution, it can be tempting to drape a rather fast-handed generalization over its meaning based on appealing surface qualities; such as armed people and violence. However, identifying what a revolution is, requires the intaking of the entire story. The exercise is simply done no justice if we draw down to the open aggression/opposition directed towards an overlord. In essence, a true revolution can best be understood as the collective irritation of the masses, armed with ideas and goals, that threatened the entire established order; encompassing social, political, cultural, and legislative norms. Not simply the current governmental system, but the society on every level. When understanding Krishan Kumar, his stance grows founded on the concept that a true revolution must carry within itself, a genuine novelty in the form of unknowns that present new avenues of operating a society (pg. 2-5). Fair indeed, but not always applicable, a conflict can be forged when we appreciate that the absence of novelty doesn’t always discount the ripple effects of predecessor demolition; demoting the actions. A past novel scenario superimposed in another area can still be a true revolution; such as the Maoist takeover of China. It is excluded from being the first communist uprising, however, the reworking of total society still persisted in various forms such as the Cultural revolution. Coupling his stance with the ideas of the Greek’s cyclical notion of political change, a real revolution mustn’t necessarily carry new concepts of change but instead repaint an unfit canvas; even if the scene carries familiar traits, the point is that total social reincarnation has taken hold.

    For example, the heralding in of the Bolsheviks quickly became the face that took over the role of the Iron fisted Tsars. Oppression carried onto the new Soviet Union. However, what this consistent oppression squatted over was a society built on the equality of the proletariat, rid of nobility, royalty, and privatization. An example of the opposite can be seen in cases such as the Xinhai revolution of 1911. Although Imperial Chinese rule was abolished, the event was an affair primarily composed of military and regional warlord interests. Moreover, Chinese society was largely preserved in the sense that the only major change was the swapping of Manchu overlordship with that of the Han. In this case, a “revolution” would not be the proper term but instead an insurrection; as there was no radical change in the established order, except for a localized decline in Manchu cultural superiority. Impressing this definition of revolution as the re-establishment of society on the mainstream view allows us to better identify what truly registers as the real long-term change that defines post-revolutionary eras. Instead, of categorizing a revolution as the mere violent change of government, we opt for the latter which focuses on the fundamental and radical leveling of a previous order; which echoes further into modernity.


    A “revolution” is best understand as a series of events that participate in the process of change in society. In this week’s reading of Kumar’s “Revolution,” and Arendt’s, On Revolution, both articles relate “revolution” as a new and radical change in history. Kumar relates the pre-modern concept of revolution to its European denomination as the term of returning to the ways things were before, and this differs from the modern concept of revolution where its progressive transformation is radically new. Kumar states “The French Revolution displayed the universal “logic of revolution,” the stages or phases through which all revolutions must pass” (pg. 2118), this relates to his belief in that revolution should be associated with the political left rather than the right. Comparatively, Kumar’s argument are shaped very much in his understanding of human nature through the scientific picture of the planets and stars. Interestingly, there is much alignment with Arendt and Kumar’s beliefs in relating the cyclical series of movements to nature.

    Arendt debates that since the French Revolution “We have stressed the element of novelty inherent in all revolutions, and it is maintained frequent if that our whole notion of history, because its course follows a rectilinear development”, saying that this shaped the course of human society. Kumar relates this argument in his conception of human history and its similarity to nature where he states that “ Similarly the widespread classical conception of revolution is of the turns of the political cycle, mirroring, or perhaps instancing, the cycles of growth and decay in nature.” (pg. 2114). Arendt believed that we had to have some kind of basic right to be in a community that recognized different kinds of human rights. The banality of evil as described by Arendt, was the unthinking of a bureaucrat doing his job. Arendt believes violence has changed in the Post world war II era, in that international conflict depends more on military power, and uses it less in traditional ways. She frames that “the fact that the interrelationship of war and revolution, their reciprocation and mutual dependence, has steadily grown, and that the emphasis in the relationship has shifted more and more from war to revolution (Pg. 17). Her belief emphasizes novelty in that she sees war changing its character to be less significant, revolution becoming more enhanced and will not disappear even if war does. Ultimately, both political perspectives are deceptive of each author’s mindset and experiences and one may be able to assume that the meaning of “revolution” is significantly different with each generation and hardship.


    Revolution is perhaps one of the most tumultuous ideas in political theory, as its history throughout the modern era has been where its entire existence, regardless of its individual continental variations, has taken place. Wholly defined, Kumar says, revolution is by its history instead of any inner meaning or timelessness it could have. Through analyzing its history, revolution can be inferred to be a “European invention” to where its intercontinental spread is attributed to “Western principles” becoming commonplace throughout the world (Kumar, 2113). This idea of revolution as European in creation and station can be compelling when examined; Kumar notes the intricacies shared by the European countries of revolution despite their overarching “common legacies” and “shared tradition” (Kumar, 2112). Further, Kumar’s historical and precise marking of the French Revolution as the “model revolution” -as a matter of “historical experience”- in conjunction with Arendt’s ideas of Machevelli’s input to the French Revolution, creates opportunity for revolution to be newly defined. To Arendt, Machiavelli concentrated on creating a “permanent and enduring” political system that could not be torn down through means of a revolution. He found “alien” the idea of revolution instead of “renovation” as the “only
    beneficial alteration he could conceive of” (Aredent, 37). Additionally, Arendt’s classification of rebellion and revolution as wholly separate is compelling and certainly definitive of what a revolution is not. While revolution is concerned with the mass liberation of society, -specifically “those of low and the poor” and the people who “had always lived in darkness”- rebellion would merely confer the ability of the people to “decide who should not rule them” (Arendt, 40, 41). However, Arendt’s rejection of “revolutionary spirit” and Kumar’s rejection of revolution’s essentialist nature ultimately are one and the same; revolution can be defined and characterized by the “conviction” of “yearning for novelty at any price” and this perhaps is an integral part of its structure (Arendt, 41). In particular, Arendt’s dismissal of revolutionary fervor of subjects generalizes too harshly the supposedly desired “assured stability” which creates a sense of “conservatism” among them (Arendt, 41). Such can be said for those who cause the revolution, but not for those whom it affects. Whose concerns and well-being are dismissed and trampled by those who seek preservance from their ultimate change are the lowest caste of men, with their souls filled with such revolutionary spirit Arendt denies the existence of. In fact, the notion of revolutionary spirit which Arendt adamantly dismisses is arguably an encompasse of a possible definition of revolution. This definition can be the forceful and unbound exercise and exertion of the highest will of the lowest man, whose will filled with the passion and eagerness indicative of classic fervor, shall use such fervor to eliminate the inorganically caused divisions from which they suffer. These divisions shall be eliminated through means of their liberation; their suffering ends at their sovereignty. This definition of revolution places human existence as profoundly historical, as revolutionary spirit, although essentialist, can be analyzed throughout the modern era. Additionally, the definition also relays the absence of liberation from rebellion, particularly during feudal antiquity, and expresses and criticizes the concerns about revolution expressed by Arendt and Kumar.


    The definition of revolution seems straightforward as it is an act of rebellion against the current state that leads to permanent change within the political system. However, the nuance lies in how a revolution is determined. As Kumar described, the term “revolution” was not coined until the European Wars defined it. Prior to this time period, other words attempted to take on the same meaning but did not quite apply in the way we know revolution to mean today. There have been many acts of rebellion throughout history, and many wars as well, but it was not until the French and American revolutions that this term became significant to mean permanent political change. Kumar insists that due to the timeline of rebellions and wars that led not to revolutions, a revolution can not just be anything and must meet certain criteria. Contrarily, Arendt equates both revolutions and wars. Arendt discusses how the reasonings for both wars and revolutions coincide, and how easy it is to switch from one to the other. For instance, an insinuation of war can be used as a means to protect freedom, which is considered a reason for revolution. Every revolution begins with the desire to protect one’s own freedom by any means necessary, which often leads to war. Arendt highlights how every revolution can lead to war and every war can lead to a revolution, thus showing the differences are minimal.

    I find Arendt’s argument to be the most compelling as it highlights the nuance of human involvement in war and revolution, and how they can be the same thing. The duality of man is that he both asks for freedom while waging war, two opposing conquests that are also one and the same. Freedom and war cannot exist together, yet war is used to obtain freedom. This creates an understanding of why rebellions and wars can also be revolutions, rather than Kumar’s stance that they cannot.

    Revolution should mean the fight for change in a system that no longer serves its population. As Kumar discusses, the American and French revolutions stemmed from this very idea of no longer agreeing with a system forcing certain ideals upon you. This can lead to war to obtain these changes in ideals. Arendt mentions that a justification for war is the fight for freedom, which is essentially what a revolution is. The freedom to choose what kind of system you want to live in rather than being forced to abide by a system that really serves someone else with other intentions. A revolution is a conglomerated effort to change what currently exists, and succeeding in doing so. This is why the Haitian revolution is considered a revolution because it eradicated the existing power dynamic that did not serve the best interest of the Haitians and took their power back. This is also why blips in time like the January 6th storming of the Capitol was not a revolution, but it very well could have been had it gained enough momentum. A revolution is directing your energy toward the source of your discomfort, and changing it to better suit your needs.


    After reading Kumar and Arendt’s texts, it was clear that defining what a revolution is would be difficult since both authors clearly agree that even attempting a definition is a nearly impossible task. However, I would define a revolution as any major paradigm shift in the political, cultural, or economic operation of a state in the hope of securing freedom for its citizens. Kumar differentiates between a pre-modern and modern concept of a revolution with the pre-modern concept definition being “the return to a truer or purer or more original state of things” (2116) and the modern definition being “the creation of something radically new; something never before seen in the world”(2117-8). While analyzing the descriptions of revolutions he places under these two concepts, I thought it would make sense to combine the two concepts as I believe the creating of something new that he describes modern revolutions of doing is simply a new way of attempting to return to the ideas of an original state of things as he describes pre-modern revolutions of doing. The new governments that are formed in modern revolutions always attempt to secure freedom as we have defined it for centuries and almost always look to the societies of Ancient Greece and Rome as models to replicate in different ways. There is rarely ever any creation of new ideas for societies to be built on, just new technologies or techniques that allow them to build on old ideas. I did not include the use of violence in my definition of a revolution because according to Arendt, “Violence is no more adequate to describe the phenomenon of revolution than change”(35). Even though all revolutions that have occurred have used violence, defining revolutions by violence would only create the possibility of misdefining coup de’tats and civil wars as revolutions even when they do not result in a paradigm shift. While a non-violent revolution is highly unlikely, it is still possible and therefore should not be removed from this category simply for lack of violence. I believe my definition is better than other ways we might use the term because I included the characteristics of a revolution that I thought made the most sense from both Kumar and Arendt which were the importance of freedom and the major shift in how a state is run. Some revolutions that I think fit under my definition include the American, French, Haitian, Russian, and Chinese revolutions. These five certainly fall under my definition because regardless of what occurred in these governments after the revolution, the purpose of all of them were to significantly change how the state is run in an attempt to give freedom to all of its citizens.


    Revolution is when the community rebels against the government, usually due to perceived tyranny or political incompetence. Revolution is a fundamental and comparatively sudden change in political power and political organization. According to Kumar, revolution was an European invention. One of the most famous and historical revolutions was the French Revolution. The reason behind that revolution was to end the French monarchy. The French Revolution was one of the most violent revolutions that have occurred historically and ended up when Napoleon Bonaparte took the control of the country. Kumar states that “The French Revolution is the model revolution, the archetype of all revolutions. It defines what revolution is” (Kumar, page 6). Personally, I agree with Kumar that the real definition of revolution is what happened during the French Revolution. In his book, Arendt highlights that “Revolutions are the only political events which confront us directly and inevitably with the problem of beginning. For revolutions, however we may be tempted to define them, they are not mere changes” (Chapter 1, page 1). This means that revolution has a purpose that carries all the events afterwards and does not face major consequences to the parties involved. But, the real question is, what are the major consequences for Arendt? The French Revolution left a couple of millions dead and that is the reason why it is known as the bloodiest revolution in history. Everyone has a different opinion about revolutions, but I believe that revolutions are more significant and “dangerous” than wars because it is a non-stop and consistent fight inside the country. For everyone that does not know, the difference between a war and a revolution is that a war is a conflict between two or more countries, while a revolution is when the society raises their power to take down the current government to install a new government and a new constitution. To start a revolution one of the key parts is to have part of the military in favor of the people and combat against their superiors. When a revolution is started, other countries cannot enter to stop it because it is something that is happening inside the same territory. On the other hand, during a war, external countries or entities can step in and try to end a war sooner. That is why I believe that a revolution is more dangerous, bloody, and is longer than a war. What do you think about a revolution? What do you believe is more dangerous, a war or a revolution?


    I believe that revolution begins with a group of empowered individuals banding together to forward the emancipation of their community from any level of restriction, whether it be social, economic, or political. This word goes hand in hand with the concepts of justice and virtue, achieving progress through unity and mobilization. Revolution is loud, quiet, warmonger, and pacifist – anything that brings about a helpful difference. As Arendt in On Revolution proclaimed, “to be sure, not even wars, let alone revolutions, are ever completely determined by violence” (paragraph 3, page 18). With a simple look back in time, it’s clear that the only kind of reform worth applauding is that derived from righteous intention and positive development. I resonate with Kumar’s assertion in Revolution that an oppressive rise such as fascism betrays all principles of a true revolution, missing the main qualification as a regressive movement.

     

    Kumar’s mention of revolution being an inherently European invention irked me because despite Western scholars’ process of categorizing this political concept it isn’t strictly Eurocentric. A chronological order of change in European history doesn’t explain the rest of the world’s development spanned across six other continents. I’m not convinced that revolution is a relatively new invention and especially not to Europe alone – it’s been an ignored innovation for centuries that’s only grown recognized after people have reflected on its long recorded pattern. Global citizens can commend the triumphs of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and Bolivian National Revolution of 1952 in South America. From protected citizen rights to limited powers of the Catholic church, Francisco Madero led the country to great reform. In addition to this, liberal Bolivia’s disbandment of their oligarchy and successful suffragette movement made waves in the region’s public sphere. Both of these overly qualify as major social and political turning points in time that fit the definition of revolution to a T but rarely receive the same attention as European powerhouses do. The author’s reason that, “so African, Asian, and Latin American ideas of revolution have shown characteristic variations reflecting their different cultures,” doesn’t change the fact that they’re equally as revolutionary and geographically relevant (paragraph 3, page 2113). On top of this, the Haitian Revolution of 1791 was an incredibly liberating revolt that put French colonies at a loss, so even as the French Revolution continues to get mentioned first in textbooks, Haiti’s fight for freedom against colonization is identical to French citizens’ battle for separation from monarchical rule. This kind of disregard selectively organizes history and the idea of revolution in a way that omits the truth.

     

    Aside from that, I was pleasantly surprised to read that Kumar’s unique definition of revolution is tied to mass freedom and specifically progressive movements throughout history. I find it one thing to observe events but another to categorize them properly; his rejection of authoritarianism in this description emphasizes what it means for a genuinely transformative period to radically change the future. It’s important to note the author’s remarks around revolution in discussions predating the French Revolution. By now, I’ve gathered how up to interpretation this term really stands and wasn’t as pleasantly surprised to learn that older societies used it with a preference for history to repeat itself instead of evolve. It’s interesting to think of how people declared reverting to the past as their present’s only other imaginable option when there was a brighter future to build towards all along.


    When we think of revolution we largely think of the American and French Revolution. Kumar and Arendt theorize that modern revolution became prevalent in the 17th century, and overwhelmingly base their concepts of revolution on Western models. Kumar centered his argument around the French Revolution as it was the first instance that a rebellion led to the disposal of a monarchy, the execution of a king, and the introduction of a republic. In the beginning of the article, Kumar is careful not to coin an exact definition of the world Revolution as he acknowledges the difference in experiences with the word around the world. However, later in his arguments Kumar does imply a more pinpointed definition of the term. Toward the end of the article, Kumar describes the French Revolution as the, “model revolution,” and stated that the French Revolution, “defines what revolution is” (2117).  Arendt on the other hand points significantly to the American revolution as the origin of the first true revolution is it was the most successful in her point of view. While the American and French Revolutions are significant historical events that constitute our overarching concept of revolution in modern times, though I worry that this Eurocentric lense through which revolution is looked at overlooks events in non-Western societies that could also be beneficial to approaching revolution as a concept.

    Kumar describes the French Revolution as an archetype of all revolutions, and stated, “Fairly or not, it is the French, not the American, Revolution that has come to be seen as the inventor of the modern concept of revolution” (2117) As Arendt saw the French abandoning their pursuit of freedom and settling for bread, she argues the American Revolution persisted and fought for a public realm. Arendt sees the need for public realms as a necessity in revolution. This belief coincides with my definition of revolution as I don’t believe governed societies can stop a cycle without having the space to participate with our rights protected.

    One particular aspect of Arendt’s arguments on Revolution that was particularly compelling is her idea that as societies become more secular, they move closer to revolution. In Arendt’s point of view, the separation of church and state is essential for a revolution to occur. Not all state’s with a separation of church and state necessarily go through a revolution, but it does stand true that revolution cannot happen in a state that is deeply intertwined with religion. This can be seen in the lack of revolutions in the Middle East, where many states are significantly tied to a presiding religion. Due to the lack of secular states in that region, attempts at revolution are unsuccessful. It is agreeable that revolutions require deep, fundamental change, and thus many attempts at revolutions in the Middle East have merely been rebellions, as Kumar would put it. Overall, it is clear that a revolution must require radical change that creates entirely new norms, though a genuine study of the concept of revolution and its history should span a broader view than the narrow West.


    Revolution is a term that has been used in various contexts throughout history, from political upheavals to technological breakthroughs. In their texts, both Kumar and Arendt provide compelling perspectives on how revolution should be understood, although there are some aspects that I find unconvincing.

    Kumar defines revolution as a radical and rapid change in the existing order that involves a fundamental transformation of society. He argues that revolution is not just a mere change of government or a shift in power but a complete reordering of social relations, values, and norms. According to Kumar, revolution is a response to social and economic inequalities that have become unbearable, and it is driven by a collective desire for a better future (Wellmer 215). Kumar’s definition is useful because it emphasizes the transformative nature of revolution and its potential to bring about lasting change. However, his definition is vague about what constitutes a “fundamental transformation,” which leaves room for interpretation.

    Arendt, on the other hand, argues that revolution is a spontaneous and unpredictable event that emerges from a crisis of legitimacy. She contends that revolutions are not planned or organized, but rather they arise from the collective actions of ordinary people who are frustrated with the existing political order (Arendt 1993). Arendt’s definition is compelling because it highlights the agency of ordinary people in bringing about change and challenges the notion that revolutions are orchestrated by a few powerful individuals. However, her definition is limited in that it downplays the role of ideology and social movements in revolution.

    Based on these arguments, I propose that revolution should be understood as a rapid and radical transformation of society that is driven by a collective desire for a better future and is characterized by the mobilization of ordinary people and the emergence of new social movements. This definition takes into account both Kumar’s emphasis on the transformative nature of revolution and Arendt’s focus on the agency of ordinary people. It also acknowledges the importance of ideology and social movements in the process of revolution.

    Historical examples that fit this definition of revolution include the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the American Civil Rights Movement.  These were all events that involved the mobilization of ordinary people, the emergence of new social movements, and a radical transformation of society.  In contrast, events such as the Glorious Revolution in England or the Arab Spring do not fit this definition because they did not involve a fundamental transformation of society or the emergence of new social movements.

    In conclusion, revolution is a complex and multifaceted term that has been used in various contexts throughout history.  By drawing on the arguments of Kumar and Arendt, I propose a definition of revolution that emphasizes its transformative nature, the agency of ordinary people, and the importance of ideology and social movements.  This definition is useful because it provides a framework for understanding the different ways in which revolution has occurred and can occur, and it allows us to distinguish between events that are truly revolutionary and those that are not. transformative nature of revolution and its potential to bring about lasting change. However, his definition is vague about what constitutes a “fundamental transformation,” which leaves room for interpretation.

    Arendt, on the other hand, argues that revolution is a spontaneous and unpredictable event that emerges from a crisis of legitimacy. She contends that revolutions are not planned or organized, but rather they arise from the collective actions of ordinary people who are frustrated with the existing political order (Arendt 1993). Arendt’s definition is compelling because it highlights the agency of ordinary people in bringing about change and challenges the notion that revolutions are orchestrated by a few powerful individuals. However, her definition is limited in that it downplays the role of ideology and social movements in revolution.

    Based on these arguments, I propose that revolution should be understood as a rapid and radical transformation of society that is driven by a collective desire for a better future and is characterized by the mobilization of ordinary people and the emergence of new social movements. This definition takes into account both Kumar’s emphasis on the transformative nature of revolution and Arendt’s focus on the agency of ordinary people. It also acknowledges the importance of ideology and social movements in the process of revolution.

    Historical examples that fit this definition of revolution include the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the American Civil Rights Movement.  These were all events that involved the mobilization of ordinary people, the emergence of new social movements, and a radical transformation of society.  In contrast, events such as the Glorious Revolution in England or the Arab Spring do not fit this definition because they did not involve a fundamental transformation of society or the emergence of new social movements.

    In conclusion, revolution is a complex and multifaceted term that has been used in various contexts throughout history.  By drawing on the arguments of Kumar and Arendt, I propose a definition of revolution that emphasizes its transformative nature, the agency of ordinary people, and the importance of ideology and social movements.  This definition is useful because it provides a framework for understanding the different ways in which revolution has occurred and can occur, and it allows us to distinguish between events that are truly revolutionary and those that are not.


    Kumar (1971) states that the term ‘revolution’ has no single meaning. He states that the term ‘revolution’ is a European invention and that the meaning of the word varies in different parts of the world. Kumar (1971) states that the Russian definition of revolution varies from that of the French and is also different from that of America, Germany, Africa, Asia and Spain. I found most compelling that Kumar states that it is tempting to give a different definition other than the one and that the remarks of Max Weber and Friedrich Nietzsche are relevant to the topic of revolution. Kumar quotes Max Weber’s view that “definition can be attempted” and Nietzsche’s that “only that which has no history can be defined”. 

    Revolutions have happened throughout human history but only vary in terms of the methods used, the period it took and the motivating factors behind them however the meaning remains the same. Therefore, I remain unconvinced by Kumar’s support of Nietzsche’s view that “only that which has no history can be defined” as revolutions have always been there throughout human history. Well-known revolutions in the past include the founding of the United States from 17775 to 1783, the French Revolution (1789-1799) and the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) etc.  

    I find it difficult to perceive the term ‘revolution’ differently from its modern and well-known meaning i.e., the revolution is the act of overthrowing a government or social system forcibly to bring upon a new system. It is also, the sudden change in political power which happens when people rebel against the government commonly because of either political, social or economic oppression or political ineptness. Other words that can be used to mean revolution include: rebellion, revolt or uprising. My definition is related to Kumar’s argument in the sense that revolution is an invention of Western modernity. 

    Kumar (1971) states that in the ancient world, the term ‘revolution’ was unknown and was also not understood how we understand it today in the European Middle Ages or during the early modern period. Kumar (1971) adds that it was not until the eighteenth century during the American and French Revolutions that the term got “its modern connotation of fundamental and far-reaching change”. Furthermore, I agree with Kumar (1971)where he explains the classic conception of the term revolution quoting Plato’s definition i.e., “metabole ‘change’ or neoterizein ten politician” meaning to revolutionize or renew the State” (Kumar, 1967). 


    Having read both passages, I find myself aligning more with Kumar’s perspective on Revolution than with Arendt’s. I concur with Kumar’s viewpoint that Revolution is a fluid concept that continually transforms as society progresses. Kumar asserts that Revolution cannot be defined by any one fixed, unchanging definition, as he states, “There cannot be any ‘essentialist’ definition of revolution, any account that assumes some permanent, unvarying meaning.” This sentiment resonates with my understanding of Revolution, which I believe is continually evolving as society determines the political ideals they seek to overthrow. Kumar further notes that our understanding of Revolution is often viewed through a Western lens, and I share this belief. The ever-changing nature of Revolution can be categorized into two primary categories, namely pre-modern revolutionary approaches and modern revolutionaries.

    The contemporary interpretation of revolution aligns more closely with a linear perspective that I hold. This radical and unprecedented change does not seek to revert to tradition, as Kumar’s pre-modern definition suggests. Instead, it represents a political upheaval that has been witnessed more recently in revolutionary politics. The French Revolution epitomizes this revolutionary shift as it resulted in a complete societal upheaval that is described as the “triumph of human will against an unjust society” by Kumar. The Reign of Terror was a time of extreme politically driven violence that defied Feudalism and rebelled against authority in the demand for rights and a complete restructuring of the political system. This transformation was not brought about by traditional political means, as Kumar points out with the Greeks, but rather by sheer anger and a demand for destruction that necessitated a complete restart.

    Arendt’s excerpt delves deeply into the concepts of violence, war, and the impact of politically driven revolutions on society. Through these events, there has been a transformation in societal understanding not only of human nature but also of the change that these violent acts have initiated. According to Arendt, politically driven violence falls outside the true definition of revolution. She argues that “the elements of novelty, beginning, and violence, all intimately associated with our notion of revolution, are conspicuously absent from the original meaning of the word as well as from its first metaphoric use in political language.” Instead, Arendt believes that action and speech are more revolutionary than the past violence associated with revolutions.

    In my view, Arendt seems to hold an idealistic view of the best ways for humans to advocate for political change. However, my perspective is much more cynical, as I do not believe that a world without war, political violence, or constantly evolving forms of political revolutions is possible. Regarding my definition of revolution in comparison to Kumar’s and Arendt’s, I believe it to be a societal upheaval that occurs through political change. It is possible that we may witness a tech-forward revolution in the future, which could be unlike anything the world has ever seen.