Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.
The concept was first developed in the 1920s by both Weimar jurist (and later Nazi academic) Carl Schmitt and, concurrently, by the Italian fascists. Italian fascist Benito Mussolini said "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state". Schmitt used the term Totalstaat in his influential 1927 work on the legal basis of an all-powerful state, The Concept of the Political. The term gained prominence in Western anti-communist political discourse during the Cold War era as a tool to convert pre-war anti-fascism into postwar anti-communism.
Totalitarian regimes are different from other authoritarian ones. The latter denotes a state in which the single power holder – an individual "dictator", a committee or a junta or an otherwise small group of political elite – monopolizes political power. "[The] authoritarian state [...] is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty". Authoritarianism "does not attempt to change the world and human nature". In contrast, a totalitarian regime attempts to control virtually all aspects of the social life, including the economy, education, art, science, private life and morals of citizens. Some totalitarian governments may promote an elaborate ideology: "The officially proclaimed ideology penetrates into the deepest reaches of societal structure and the totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens". It also mobilizes the whole population in pursuit of its goals. Carl Joachim Friedrich writes that "a totalist ideology, a party reinforced by a secret police, and monopoly control of [...] industrial mass society" are the three features of totalitarian regimes that distinguish them from other autocracies.
The notion of totalitarianism as a "total" political power by the state was formulated in 1923 by Giovanni Amendola, who described Italian Fascism as a system fundamentally different from conventional dictatorships. The term was later assigned a positive meaning in the writings of Giovanni Gentile, Italy’s most prominent philosopher and leading theorist of fascism. He used the term totalitario to refer to the structure and goals of the new state, which were to provide the "total representation of the nation and total guidance of national goals". He described totalitarianism as a society in which the ideology of the state had influence, if not power, over most of its citizens. According to Benito Mussolini, this system politicizes everything spiritual and human: "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state".
One of the first to use the term "totalitarianism" in the English language was the Austrian writer Franz Borkenau in his 1938 book The Communist International, in which he commented that it united the Soviet and German dictatorships more than it divided them. The label "totalitarian" was twice affixed to the Hitler regime during Winston Churchill's speech of October 5, 1938 before the House of Commons in opposition to the Munich Agreement, by which France and Great Britain consented to Nazi Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland. Churchill was then a backbencher MP representing the Epping constituency. In a radio address two weeks later, Churchill again employed the term, this time applying the concept to "a Communist or a Nazi tyranny".
The leader of the historic Spanish reactionary conservative party called the Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right declared his intention to "give Spain a true unity, a new spirit, a totalitarian polity" and went on to say: "Democracy is not an end but a means to the conquest of the new state. When the time comes, either parliament submits or we will eliminate it".
George Orwell made frequent use of the word totalitarian and its cognates in multiple essays published in 1940, 1941 and 1942. In his essay Why I Write, he wrote: "The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it".
During a 1945 lecture series entitled The Soviet Impact on the Western World (published as a book in 1946), the pro-Soviet British historian E. H. Carr claimed: "The trend away from individualism and towards totalitarianism is everywhere unmistakable" and that Marxism–Leninism was by far the most successful type of totalitarianism as proved by Soviet industrial growth and the Red Army's role in defeating Germany. Only the "blind and incurable" could ignore the trend towards totalitarianism, said Carr.
In The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) and The Poverty of Historicism (1961), Karl Popper articulated an influential critique of totalitarianism: in both works, he contrasted the "open society" of liberal democracy with totalitarianism and argued that the latter is grounded in the belief that history moves toward an immutable future in accordance with knowable laws.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argued that Nazi and Communist regimes were new forms of government and not merely updated versions of the old tyrannies. According to Arendt, the source of the mass appeal of totalitarian regimes is their ideology, which provides a comforting, single answer to the mysteries of the past, present and future. For Nazism, all history is the history of race struggle and for Marxism all history is the history of class struggle. Once that premise is accepted, all actions of the state can be justified by appeal to nature or the law of history, justifying their establishment of authoritarian state apparatus.
In addition to Arendt, many scholars from a variety of academic backgrounds and ideological positions have closely examined totalitarianism. Among the most noted commentators on totalitarianism are Raymond Aron, Lawrence Aronsen, Franz Borkenau, Karl Dietrich Bracher, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Conquest, Carl Joachim Friedrich, Eckhard Jesse, Leopold Labedz, Walter Laqueur, Claude Lefort, Juan Linz, Richard Löwenthal, Karl Popper, Richard Pipes, Leonard Schapiro and Adam Ulam. Each one of these describes totalitarianism in slightly different ways, but they all agree that totalitarianism seeks to mobilize entire populations in support of an official state ideology and is intolerant of activities which are not directed towards the goals of the state, entailing repression or state control of business, labour unions, non-profit organizations, religious organizations and buildings and political parties.
The political scientists Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski were primarily responsible for expanding the usage of the term in university social science and professional research, reformulating it as a paradigm for the Soviet Union as well as fascist regimes. Friedrich and Brzezinski argue that a totalitarian system has the following six, mutually supportive, defining characteristics:
Totalitarian regimes in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union had initial origins in the chaos that followed in the wake of World War I and allowed totalitarian movements to seize control of the government while the sophistication of modern weapons and communications enabled them to effectively establish what Friedrich and Brzezinski called a "totalitarian dictatorship". Some social scientists have criticized Friedrich and Brzezinski's anti-totalitarian approach, arguing that the Soviet system, both as a political and as a social entity, was in fact better understood in terms of interest groups, competing elites, or even in class terms (using the concept of the nomenklatura as a vehicle for a new ruling class). These critics pointed to evidence of popular support for the regime and widespread dispersion of power, at least in the implementation of policy, among sectoral and regional authorities. For some followers of this pluralist approach, this was evidence of the ability of the regime to adapt to include new demands. However, proponents of the totalitarian model claimed that the failure of the system to survive showed not only its inability to adapt, but the mere formality of supposed popular participation.
The German historian Karl Dietrich Bracher, whose work is primarily concerned with Nazi Germany, argues that the "totalitarian typology" as developed by Friedrich and Brzezinski is an excessively inflexible model and failed to consider the "revolutionary dynamic" that Bracher asserts is at the heart of totalitarianism. Bracher maintains that the essence of totalitarianism is the total claim to control and remake all aspects of society combined with an all-embracing ideology, the value on authoritarian leadership and the pretence of the common identity of state and society, which distinguished the totalitarian "closed" understanding of politics from the "open" democratic understanding. Unlike the Friedrich-Brzezinski definition, Bracher argued that totalitarian regimes did not require a single leader and could function with a collective leadership, which led the American historian Walter Laqueur to argue that Bracher's definition seemed to fit reality better than the Friedrich-Brzezinski definition.
In his book The True Believer, Eric Hoffer argues that mass movements like Stalinism, fascism and Nazism had a common trait in picturing Western democracies and their values as decadent, with people "too soft, too pleasure-loving and too selfish" to sacrifice for a higher cause, which for them implies an inner moral and biological decay. He further claims that those movements offered the prospect of a glorious future to frustrated people, enabling them to find a refuge from the lack of personal accomplishments in their individual existence. The individual is then assimilated into a compact collective body and "fact-proof screens from reality" are established.
In the 1990s, François Furet used the term "totalitarian twins" to link Stalinism and Nazism. Eric Hobsbawm criticized Furet for his temptation to stress a common ground between two systems of different ideological roots.
In the field of Soviet history, the totalitarian concept has been disparaged by the revisionist school, some of whose more prominent members were Sheila Fitzpatrick, Jerry F. Hough, William McCagg, Robert W. Thurston and J. Arch Getty. Though their individual interpretations differ, the revisionists have argued that the Soviet state under Joseph Stalin was institutionally weak, that the level of terror was much exaggerated and that—to the extent it occurred—it reflected the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the Soviet state. Fitzpatrick argued that the Stalin's purges in the Soviet Union provided an increased social mobility and therefore a chance for a better life.
Writing in 1987, Walter Laqueur said that the revisionists in the field of Soviet history were guilty of confusing popularity with morality and of making highly embarrassing and not very convincing arguments against the concept of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian state. Laqueur argued that the revisionists' arguments with regard to Soviet history were highly similar to the arguments made by Ernst Nolte regarding German history. Laqueur asserted that concepts such as modernization were inadequate tools for explaining Soviet history while totalitarianism was not.
Laqueur's argument has been criticized by modern revisionist historians, such as Paul Buhle, who claim that Laqueur wrongly equates Cold-war revisionism with the German revisionism. The latter reflected a "revanchist, military-minded conservative nationalism". More recently, Enzo Traverso has attacked the creators of the concept of totalitarianism as having invented it to designate the enemies of the West. Thus, calling Stalin totalitarian instead of authoritarian has been asserted to be a high-sounding but specious excuse for Western self-interest, just as surely as the counterclaim—that alleged debunking of the totalitarian concept may just be a high-sounding but specious excuse for Russian self-interest. For Domenico Losurdo, totalitarianism is a polysemic concept with origins in Christian theology, and that applying it to the political sphere requires an operation of abstract schematism which makes use of isolated elements of historical reality to place fascist regimes and the USSR in the dock together, serving the anti-communism of Cold War-era intellectuals rather than reflecting intellectual research. Other scholars, such as F. William Engdahl, Sheldon Wolin and Slavoj Žižek, have linked totalitarianism to capitalism and liberalism and used concepts, such as totalitarian democracy, inverted totalitarianism or totalitarian capitalism.
In the 2010s, Vladimir Tismaneanu, Richard Shorten and Aviezer Tucker argued that totalitarian ideologies can take different forms in different political systems, but all of them focus on utopianism, scientism and/or political violence. They think that both Nazism and Soviet Communism emphasised the role of specialisation in modern societies and saw polymathy as "a thing of the past"; both claimed to have statistical scientific support for their claims, which led to a strict "ethical" control of culture, psychological violence and persecution of entire groups. Their arguments have been criticised by other scholars due to their partiality and anachronism. For instance, Juan Francisco Fuentes treats totalitarianism as an “invented tradition” and the use of notion of “modern despotism” as a “reverse anachronism”. For Fuentes, “the anachronistic use of totalitarian/totalitarianism involves the will to reshape the past in the image and likeness of the present.”
Non-political aspects of the culture and motifs of totalitarian countries have themselves often been labeled innately "totalitarian". For example, Theodore Dalrymple, a British author, physician and political commentator, has written for City Journal that brutalist structures are an expression of totalitarianism given that their grand, concrete-based design involves destroying gentler, more-human places such as gardens. In 1949, author George Orwell described the Ministry of Truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four as an "enormous, pyramidal structure of white concrete, soaring up terrace after terrace, three hundred metres into the air". Columnist Ben Macintyre of The Times wrote that it was "a prescient description of the sort of totalitarian architecture that would soon dominate the Communist bloc".
Another example of totalitarianism in architecture is the Panopticon, a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without their being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. It was invoked by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish as metaphor for "disciplinary" societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise.
the totalitarian nature of Stalin's Russia is undeniable
The anti-globalization movement, or counter-globalization movement, is a social movement critical of economic globalization. The movement is also commonly referred to as the global justice movement, alter-globalization movement, anti-globalist movement, anti-corporate globalization movement, or movement against neoliberal globalization.
Participants base their criticisms on a number of related ideas. What is shared is that participants oppose large, multinational corporations having unregulated political power, exercised through trade agreements and deregulated financial markets. Specifically, corporations are accused of seeking to maximize profit at the expense of work safety conditions and standards, labour hiring and compensation standards, environmental conservation principles, and the integrity of national legislative authority, independence and sovereignty. As of January 2012, some commentators have characterized changes in the global economy as "turbo-capitalism" (Edward Luttwak), "market fundamentalism" (George Soros), "casino capitalism" (Susan Strange), and as "McWorld" (Benjamin Barber).
Many anti-globalization activists do not oppose globalization in general and call for forms of global integration that better provide democratic representation, advancement of human rights, fair trade and sustainable development and therefore feel the term "anti-globalization" is misleading.Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Individual freedoms are subordinate to the state and there is no constitutional accountability and rule of law under an authoritarian regime. Authoritarian regimes can be autocratic with power concentrated in one person or it can be more spread out between multiple officials and government institutions. Juan Linz's influential 1964 description of authoritarianism characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:
Limited political pluralism, that is such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
A basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as enemies of the people or state, underdevelopment or insurgency;
Minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
Informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting, but vast powers.Claude Lefort
Claude Lefort (; French: [ləfɔʁ]; 21 April 1924 – 3 October 2010) was a French philosopher and activist.
He was politically active by 1942 under the influence of his tutor, the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty (whose posthumous publications Lefort later edited). By 1943 he was organising a faction of the Trotskyist Parti Communiste Internationaliste at the Lycée Henri-IV in Paris.
Lefort was impressed by Cornelius Castoriadis when he first met him. From 1946 he collaborated with him in the Chaulieu–Montal Tendency, so called from their pseudonyms Pierre Chaulieu (Castoriadis) and Claude Montal (Lefort). They published On the Regime and Against the Defence of the USSR, a critique of both the Soviet Union and its Trotskyist supporters. They suggested that the USSR was dominated by a social layer of bureaucrats, and that it consisted of a new kind of society as aggressive as Western European societies. By 1948, having tried to persuade other Trotskyists of their viewpoint, they broke away with about a dozen others and founded the libertarian socialist group Socialisme ou Barbarie. Lefort's text L'Expérience prolétarienne was important in shifting the group's focus towards forms of self-organisation.
For a time Lefort wrote for both the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie and for Les Temps Modernes. His involvement in the latter journal ended after a published debate during 1952–4 over Jean-Paul Sartre's article The Communists and Peace. Lefort was for a long time uncomfortable with Socialisme ou Barbarie's "organisationalist" tendencies. In 1958 he, Henri Simon and others left Socialisme ou Barbarie and formed the group Informations et Liaison Ouvrières (Workers' Information and Liaison).
In his academic career, Lefort taught at the University of São Paulo, at the Sorbonne and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), being affiliated to the Centre de recherches politiques Raymond Aron. He has written on the early political writers Niccolò Machiavelli and Étienne de La Boétie and explored "the Totalitarian enterprise" in its "denial of social division... [and] of the difference between the order of power, the order of law and the order of knowledge".Comparison of Nazism and Stalinism
A number of authors have carried out comparisons of Nazism and Stalinism, in which they have considered the similarities and differences of the two ideologies and political systems, what relationship existed between the two regimes, and why both of them came to prominence at the same time. During the 20th century, the comparison of Stalinism and Nazism was made on the topics of totalitarianism, ideology, and personality cult. Both regimes were seen in contrast to the liberal West, with an emphasis on the similarities between the two. The political scientists Zbigniew Brzezinski, Hannah Arendt and Carl Friedrich and historian Robert Conquest were prominent advocates of applying the "totalitarian" concept to compare Nazism and Stalinism.Counter-Enlightenment
The Counter-Enlightenment was a term that some 20th-century commentators have used to describe multiple strains of thought that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th-century Enlightenment.
Though the first known use of the term in English was in 1949 and there were several uses of it, including one by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Counter-Enlightenment is usually associated with Isaiah Berlin, who is often credited for re-inventing it. The starting point of discussion on this concept in English started with Isaiah Berlin's 1973 Essay, The Counter-Enlightenment. He published widely about the Enlightenment and its challengers and did much to popularise the concept of a Counter-Enlightenment movement that he characterized as relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist, and organic, which he associated most closely with German Romanticism.Dictatorship
A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders with either no party or a weak party, little mass mobilization, and limited political pluralism. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictators is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.Guided democracy
Guided democracy, also called managed democracy, is a formally democratic government that functions as a de facto autocracy. Such governments are legitimized by elections that are free and fair, but do not change the state's policies, motives, and goals.In other words, the government controls elections so that the people can exercise all their rights without truly changing public policy. While they follow basic democratic principles, there can be major deviations towards authoritarianism. Under managed democracy, the state's continuous use of propaganda techniques prevents the electorate from having a significant impact on policy.The concept of a "guided democracy" was developed in the 20th century by Walter Lippmann in his seminal work Public Opinion (1922) and by Edward Bernays in his work Crystallizing Public Opinion.
After World War II, the term was used in Indonesia for the approach to government under the Sukarno administration from 1957 to 1966. It is today widely employed in Russia, where it was introduced into common practice by Kremlin theorists, in particular Gleb Pavlovsky. Princeton University professor Sheldon Wolin describes this process as inverted totalitarianism.
An important distinction is the one between governments that have elections which are judged not free or fair by observers and governments which have elections considered both free and fair. The Russian Federation under Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev has also been described as an illiberal democracy. Elections take place regularly, but many foreign observers (e.g. from the OSCE) do not consider them free or fair. Thirteen Russian journalists were assassinated between 2000 and 2003. Furthermore, most major television networks and newspapers are owned or controlled by the government and only openly support current government and state approved parties and candidates during elections.Inverted totalitarianism
The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin coined the term inverted totalitarianism in 2003 to describe what he saw as the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin analysed the United States as increasingly turning into a managed democracy (similar to an illiberal democracy). He uses the term "inverted totalitarianism" to draw attention to the totalitarian aspects of the American political system while emphasizing its differences from proper totalitarianism, such as Nazi and Stalinist regimes.The book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012) by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco portrays inverted totalitarianism as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics.
Every natural resource and living being is commodified and exploited by large corporations to the point of collapse as excess consumerism and sensationalism lull and manipulate the citizenry into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government.Islamofascism
"Islamic fascism" (first described in 1933), also known since 1990 as "Islamofascism", is a term drawing an analogy between the ideological characteristics of specific Islamist movements and a broad range of European fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism.Jackboot
A jackboot is a military boot such as the cavalry jackboot or the hobnailed jackboot. The hobnailed jackboot has a different design and function than the first type. It is a combat boot that is designed for marching. It rises to mid-calf or higher with no laces and usually has a leather sole with hobnails. These boots have both been associated with totalitarianism, as they were worn by the German army during the Second World War..Market fundamentalism
Market fundamentalism (also known as free market fundamentalism) is a term applied to a strong belief in the ability of unregulated laissez-faire or free market policies to solve most economic and social problems.Orwellian
"Orwellian" is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth (doublethink), and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson"—a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practised by modern repressive governments. Often, this includes the circumstances depicted in his novels, particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four but political doublespeak is criticized throughout his work, such as in Politics and the English Language.The New York Times said the term was "the most widely used adjective derived from the name of a modern writer".Secret police
The term secret police (or political police) refers to intelligence, security or police agencies that engage in covert operations against a government's political opponents and dissidents. Secret police organizations are characteristic of totalitarian regimes. Used to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian regime, secret police often, but not always, operate outside the law and are used to repress dissidents and weaken the political opposition, frequently with violence, and torture.Sic semper tyrannis
Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants."Statism
In political science, statism is the belief that the state should control either economic or social policy, or both, to some degree.While the term "statism" has been in use since the 1850s, it gained significant usage in American political discourse throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Ayn Rand made frequent use of it in a series of articles in 1962.The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu (Romanian: Autobiografia lui Nicolae Ceaușescu) is a 2010 Romanian documentary film directed by Andrei Ujică. The three-hour-long documentary covers 25 years in the life of Nicolae Ceaușescu and was made using 1,000 hours of original footage from the National Archives of Romania.The Origins of Totalitarianism
The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, was Hannah Arendt's first major work, wherein she describes and analyzes Nazism and Stalinism, the major totalitarian political movements of the first half of the 20th century. The book is regularly listed as one of the best non-fiction books of the 20th century.Totalitarian democracy
Totalitarian democracy is a term popularized by Israeli historian J. L. Talmon to refer to a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government. The phrase had previously been used by Bertrand de Jouvenel and E. H. Carr, and subsequently by F. William Engdahl and Sheldon S. Wolin.Ultranationalism
Ultranationalism is an "extreme nationalism that promotes the interest of one state or people above all others", or simply "extreme devotion to one's own nation".Ultranationalism combined with the notion of national rebirth is a key foundation of fascism.According to Janusz Bugajski, "in its most extreme or developed forms, ultra-nationalism resembles fascism, marked by a xenophobic disdain of other nations, support for authoritarian political arrangements verging on totalitarianism, and a mythical emphasis on the 'organic unity' between a charismatic leader, an organizationally amorphous movement-type party, and the nation".Roger Griffin asserts that ultranationalism is essentially racist and is known to legitimise itself "through deeply mythicized narratives of past cultural or political periods of historical greatness or of old scores to settle against alleged enemies". It can also draw on "vulgarized forms of physical anthropology, genetics, and eugenics to rationalize ideas of national superiority and destiny, of degeneracy and subhumanness".