The Origins of Totalitarianism is perhaps the most notable (and most famous) work of Hannah Arendt, focused on the two major totalitarian movements of the twentieth century, Nazism (in Germany) and Stalinism (in the former USSR). The book is divided in three different parts, the three steps that led to totalitarianism.
The first part deals with anti-semitism in Central and Western Europe and its the roots (19nth century). Arendt, here, identifies a particular form of anti-semitism that differs from the medieval condemnation of that ‘the Jews are wholly responsible for the crucifixion of Christ’. Modern anti-semitism grew together with the declined of the ‘spring-time of nations’ and reached the point when the European system of nation-states crashed. The Nazis associated the Jews with the ‘anti-German establishment’ and considered them as a great obstacle to pan-Germanism. Such like Disraeli, they saw Jews as a particular race rather than a separate cultural (or religious) group.
The second part deals with European imperialism from the end of the 19nth century until the outbreak of the First World War and race thinking. The industrial powers needed to craft new markets and this caused invasions. Racism and eugenics was used to justify imperialist wars (such like the Boer wars).
Third chapter: Two were the basic totalitarian movements in Europe: Nazism and Stalinism. Both of them had some common characteristics; violence, totality, predestination and deterministic approaches on life and society. But above all, both shared a biblical prospect for ‘a bright future’. Totalitarian movements do not see the masses as individual citizens, as independent political bodies capable for self-organization but rather as a colorless mob. Totalitarian movements rises to power through propaganda and uses indoctrination to achieve their goals (to spread in the rest of non-totalitarian world). Secrecy, scapegoating, absolute conformity, iron discipline and organization, demagoguery and consumption of propaganda are the key elements of totalitarian regimes. But for Arendt totalitarianism was not only identified on the USSR, the Nazi Germany and the fascist regimes of Spain and Italy. Some totalitarian elements could even be found in the USA as even many of those who were persecuted by Mc Carthy were Jewish. Mass advertisement carries some totalitarian characteristics as well.
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