Arendt and Lincoln on Leadership and Rule



How to Cite

Arendt and Lincoln on Leadership and Rule. (2024). The Political Science Reviewer, 48(1), 202-237.


While it is well known that Arendt was highly critical of the concept of rule, she also provides to the careful reader a positive conception of leadership that has not been sufficiently explored by scholars. This positive conception of leadership not only plays an important (though little- recognized) role in Arendt’s thought but also can help us think through the problem of what it means to be a democratic leader. This essay compares and contrasts Arendt’s ideas on leadership and on rule with those of Abraham Lincoln. At times, Lincoln’s words and deeds resonate with Arendt’s understanding of leadership and with her critique of rule; however, Lincoln can also help us see some of the shortcomings of Arendt’s ideas on these matters. The key differences between Arendt’s and Lincoln’s ideas on leadership and on rule are ultimately rooted in their proponents’ very different understandings of the meaning and the significance of the Declaration of Independence.