The origins of Hannah Arendt's council system

James Muldoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article reconsiders Arendt’s frequently ignored proposal of a federal
council system. While Arendt’s references to a council system are usually dismissed by her interpreters, I re-examine Arendt’s political writings in order to demonstrate the centrality of the councils to her thought. The development of the council system is traced back to two primary sources: a council communist tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Arendt’s husband, Heinrich Blücher, and Arendt’s Jewish writings of the 1930s and 1940s. The analysis reveals that Arendt’s republicanism undertakes a council communist inflection, which has not yet been fully appreciated. Her distinct variety of council republicanism emphasizes the participatory and popularly empowered nature of council institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-789
Number of pages29
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Hannah Arendt
  • council system
  • Rosa Luxemburg
  • council communism
  • Marxism
  • American Revolution

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