Free The Origins Of Totalitarianism Book Review Example

Type of paper: Book Review

Topic: Freedom, Totalitarianism, Government, Democracy, Politics, Life, Confidentiality, Human

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/29


Hannah Arendt is a German philosopher, a follower of Husserl and Karl Jaspers. In her works Ardent explores "imperialism" that can give rise to totalitarianism. Considerable attention is paid to anti-Semitism. It is considered in detail the "Dreyfus Affair" as an example of the dormant anti-Semitism. In theory of propaganda Ardent considered the idea of ​​the omnipotence of ideological influence on the person as a common mistake. She performed a very fine analysis of racial mindset that existed even before overt racism. She also tried to recreate the tragic consciousness of a woman who is torn between her identity and assimilation. According to Arendt, the victory of totalitarianism can lead to the destruction of humanity. Wherever formed, this phenomenon breaks the very essence of man. Arendt believed that any policy should be free, just as free as thinking is. In "Origins of Totalitarianism" she explored the tendencies of 19th and 20th centuries, which led to the undermining of political and philosophical freedom.


Totalitarianism in terms of political science is a form of relationship of society and government in which political power takes a full (total) control of society, fully controlling all aspects of human life. Manifestations of opposition to any form is cruelly and mercilessly suppressed or repressed by the government. Another important feature of totalitarianism is to create the illusion of a full approval of this regime in society. Historically, the term "totalitarian state" (ital. Stato totalitario) appeared in the early 1920s to describe the regime of Benito Mussolini. Totalitarian state was characterized by unlimited statutory authority power, the elimination of constitutional rights and freedoms, the repression of dissidents, the militarization of public life. The lawyers of Italian fascism and German Nazism have used the term in a positive way, and their critics - in the negative.
A theory of totalitarianism became widely distributed after the publication of the book of "The Origins of Totalitarianism" (1951) by Hannah Arendt. The focus of the book is at large-scale terror and unprecedented violence related to the Holocaust and the Gulag. According to Arendt, a base of regime is considered the official ideology, which declared its ability to explain all aspects of human activity. In her opinion, ideology becomes a link between individuals and made them vulnerable to the government, to the arbitrariness of the dictator. Arendt believed that although the Italian fascism was a classic example of dictatorship, Nazism and Stalinism were significantly different from it. In these countries, the government was completely under control of one party representing a nation, or the proletariat. On the contrary, according to Arendt, the fascism of Mussolini put the government above the party. Arendt also highlights the role of the Nazi regime and Pan-Slavism of the Stalinist regime as a special case of "continental imperialism" and his inherent racism. It should be noted that, unlike other political theorists who have tried to portray the Stalinist totalitarianism consequence of collectivist communist ideology as such, the main cause of totalitarianism Arendt saw in atomization, fragmentation of the masses. As a result they are not capable of self-organization and therefore require external mobilization. In this case, Arendt emphasized that Lenin's regime was not yet totalitarian.
Similar to the views of Arendt belonged later to other philosophers and historians, in particular, to Ernst Nolte, who saw Nazism as a mirror image of Bolshevism. Friedrich, Linz and other historians are inclined to the view that Nazism was still closer to the Italian fascism than to Stalinism. Arendt wrote that the central feature of any society is the balance between public and private, which is presented as an opportunity to realize itself as a socio-civic and private spheres in the individual human dimension. Violation of harmonious relations between these spheres deforms the normal course of human life. Thus, an imbalance in favor of the publicity that characterizes totalitarian society ultimately expands the boundaries of official legitimacy to a minimum by reducing the possibility of manifestation of the man himself in the private sphere.
Meanwhile, according to the Arendt’s concept, a person's personality, which makes feasible the main repertoire of his life, requires certain "private addresses" for its own existence - the inalienable under any circumstances "private share of the world, a fragment of being". Inside this share there is happening privacy protected from publicity interference as correction level, and the level of evaluation. The destruction of such barriers between the individual and the outside world (firstly, the government) necessarily leads to the destruction of human personality, which in Arendt’s axiological system acts as the maximum value. Life values ​​of individual order are replaced by ideological dogmas, operating in the mass consciousness, on the one hand - as dogmas, which making unsubstantiated demand for unquestioning faith and allegiance to the idea, and on the other - like a cliché because it assumed stereotypical forms behavior, social "automatics." No less important for the life, however, is the public sphere: according to the H. Arendt’s position, "without publicity a personality is devoid of humanity" (Arendt refers even to the fact that the Latin verb "to live" actually means "to be among the people" and "die", respectively - "cease to be among the people").
Moreover, the public sphere is particularly important because it is only here (in politics) the phenomenon of freedom is possible. The concept of freedom in the Arendt’s system is very significant and meaningful: in addition to its traditional interpretation, Arendt reveals new layers of its content. First of all, Arendt fixes that freedom in the political sphere acts as a "resistance" - in the context of the impact, as "special personal opinion" - in the context of disagreement. In this sense, in the area of ​​privacy, where "free" man is defined as the original (by definition), a freedom is not constituted as a specific phenomenon. And in the same way like a performing art not only requires the interaction between the performer and the addressee, but also is a form of interaction, freedom sets new forms of publicity. A creation potential of freedom that inspires "new initiative", is fixed by Arendt in a particular slice of human life - "activity".
Meanwhile, freedom as a manifestation of the of the "activity" (the surplus product of non-pragmatic process) is extremely important and "useful" to society. It inspires society to the new, to the "birth of what has never happened". According to Arentd, freedom is able to overcome even the barriers of totalitarian social systems. In the socio-event reference frame freedom is realized as revolution, which not only destroys the "fossil" of totalitarianism, freeing man from false ideological dogmas, but also brings to the world of "new birth." Thus, as the new creative Creation is only possible for a person with personality, educated in private life, in so far freedom serves as a link between public and private, general history and "the lot of man." According to Arendt, a universal definition of each existence is "birth" and "mortality".
At the level of the individual, a "birth" is realized in the "activity", i.e., creating something ne. Mortality is implemented "in the loss of creativity”, hence, the lost of individuality. Accordingly, at the level of society" mortality "is none other than the deprivation of human individuality, undertaken as a large-scale action, the destruction of the scope of privacy. In other words, “mortality” is totalitarianism, assuming a "total person", a representative of the mass as a conglomerate, integrity and unity which is not immanent. It is the result of targeted violence through indoctrination, followed by political manipulation. "Birth" at the level of society is a "revolution" as "the interception of history" and breakthrough creativity and freedom.


The estimates of Arendt’s place in the panorama of philosophical life of XX century is vary in a wide range. For example, Habermas notes the genetic climbing of his concept of communicative activity to the ideas of Arendt. In turn, each of these specific estimates contained alternative positions with regard to creativity Arendt: for example, in the framework of feminist interpretation there is can be found negative judgments as well as Arendt's understanding of the ideas of expressing the essence and spirit of feminism. The affair of nineteen Arendt and Heidegger is devoted to a series of books. There is no doubt, however, that the Arendt’s work had a significant impact on the formation of postmodern philosophical paradigm, and the philosophical tradition of the 20th century in a whole.

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. Print.

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