Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

First Advisor

Barbara R. Cruikshank

Second Advisor

Laura L. Lovett

Third Advisor

Nicholas Xenos

Subject Categories

Philosophy | Political Science


Drawing on seminal texts and lesser known works, this dissertation brings the political theory of Hannah Arendt into the company of several key debates in democratic theory. Though she is most renowned for her theory of political action, it is my contention that Arendt's concept of World can productively change the very terms by which democratic politics is most often understood and questioned. World, in this case, refers to physical and symbolic matters of commonality that are constructed by and for humans. This project begins with a genealogy of that traces its development of World through Arendt's own biography including her experience as a female philosopher decades before the feminist movement, German Jewish refugee, and immigrant living in the United States. The following chapter explores the shortcomings of Arendt's concept of political action, arguing in particular that it limits and forecloses democratic political possibilities. The third chapter brings World to bear on the question of whether unity or difference is necessary for the consolidation of the demos, a well-mined debate in democratic theory that the conceptual terms of World can alter and amend. The final section uses the concept of World to contest the popular depiction of globalization that Thomas Friedman champions in his well known works. This is in service of an argument that World can offer a productive critique of the destructive aspects of globalization, particularly the narrative of capitalist inevitability that often undergirds them.