October and the Prospects for Revolution: The Views of Arendt, Adorno, and Marcuse

  • Marie-Josée Lavallée
Part of the Critical Political Theory and Radical Practice book series (CPTRP)


This paper explores the theoretical positions of Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse on revolution and the issue of social and political change. A close reading of their main writings and of a selection of posthumously published materials like conferences, discussions, drafts, and letters, testifies that their reflections on revolution must be read as a “dialogue” with the experience of the October Revolution. These thinkers offer a comprehensive analysis of the reasons for the failure of the first successful revolution of the twentieth century to bring about social justice, equality and freedom, on the one hand, by considering the empirical conditions in which the seizure of power occurred, and those which determined the subsequent development of the Soviet state, on the other hand, by considering the role of theory and the weight of ideology whose roots are to be found in Marxian, Marxist and Leninist precepts and ideas. The first part of this chapter will be devoted to these diagnoses. The shadow of October obviously hangs over Arendt’s, Adorno’s, and Marcuse’s pondering of the prospects for revolution. They had to base their thinking on new empirical and theoretical bases in order to avoid the pitfall of October. However, this historical experience was not devoid of inspiring elements, which they borrowed and reshaped after their own fashion. The second section of this paper will explore these conceptions of revolution, which remain enlightening today.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie-Josée Lavallée
    • 1
  1. 1.Université de MontréalQuébecCanada

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