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Paperback Origins of Totalitarianism Book

ISBN: 0156701537

ISBN13: 9780156701532

Origins of Totalitarianism

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Hannah Arendt's definitive work on totalitarianism--an essential component of any study of twentieth-century political history.The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

A book for ages to come

This book blew my mind. It's relevant, poignant and full of research to ponder for weeks.

A difficult book, but perhaps the best on the topic...

First let me say I read this book in reverse order. The text is divided into three sections, "Anti-Semitism," "Imperialism" and "Totalitarianism." I started out intending to read the final section only, and it is possible to read that part alone and not be entirely lost. However, after reading the third part I decided to go back and read the section on Imperialism as well. I will say that some basic knowledge of the conditions of Europe and Russia are definitely helpful in understanding the book. I was very well served by some lectures on WW2 and dictatorships of the 20th century I listened to recently. This book can be a difficult read and it does take time to get through. It is densely packed and written with a philosophical style, German philosophy in particular. I should say there wasn't anything in the book that totally left me lost, that I simply did not understand. One of the difficulties of the book is the length of sentences at times, very long and drawn out thoughts with more thoughts and qualifiers and paradoxes in between, forcing one to re-read the sentence to make sure you got the point. In short this book is not overly friendly to the casual, modern reader, but it's probably still the best book on the topic that it covers. Another good one is the out of print "Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy" by Friedrich and Brzezinski, less on the origins and more on the nature of Totalitarian states of the past century. And with specific chapters on subjects such as agriculture, labor, industry and education (to give some examples) you can guess it is going to be a little more detailed than this one. I'm going to present here what I consider a quick summary, and indeed it is impossible to give anything BUT a "summary" of a text like this because the detail leaves one at a loss to express its real depths. Imperialism In the Imperialism section Arendt spends much time speaking of the drive to send "idle capital and idle labor" abroad to be productive, and for Western European imperialism this went to Africa. The Western Imperialism model has a rather "white man's burden" to it. The drive often expressed was for profit, but was ultimately about expansion for its own sake. Those on the ground were of two types: adventurers, the dragon slayers of their time who believed they were benefiting humanity in some way, the other were of a sort of "mobster class" who enjoyed danger and a land far from home where they could get away with almost anything. Imperialism led to the beginning of "race thinking" as something more serious than it had been before. The Eastern European form of imperialism took a rather different model, created by societies which had not experienced a nation-state and which were more rootless than those found in Britain with its well-rooted peasant society. The pan-movements with their belief in tribal nationalism became influential but remained vague at first in their purpose and goals, and were part of the

A real classic

This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding popular history, values, and structures of modern western society, and how they relate to modern political power in the twentieth and twenty-first century. It challenges many values that are often taken for granted in national and international power play and politics. The Origins of Totalitarianism will remains relevant to current events, and a warning to those who advocate change without taking into account the mistakes committed by our forbearer. This book explains in detail the dangers to liberal democracy that the scourge of racism has been and could be again. On a darker note it could also be used as blueprint by those who wish to abuse power. A true classic. At first glance one could be drawn into making close parallels between modern Pan Islamist movements and the Pan European movements of the twentieth century, but the analysis would be far from complete. The Pan European movements where primarily tribal in nature, where as the Osama's Pan Islamist movement forms a superset without full integration of racial components. The dangers and the cold bureaucratic cauculas are similar, however Islam spans many races and cultures. Race therefore cannot form the primary glue required to hold it together. Also Islamist movements are not progressive, they are reactionary in nature. On the other hand close parallels can be drawn to the Pan Slavic movement with regards to Saddam's Iraqi nationalistic movement. Osama's concept of Pan Islam differs in many ways from Stalin's or Hitler's base, the primarily glue is religious ideology and fear, not race or nationalism. Furthermore his ideology is not anywhere close to being shared by the masses within Islamic countries, and as a result terrorism is a requirement from start, not so much against the west, but against moderate elements or differing sects within the countries where this movement thrives. This is not to say that they do not use terrorism in all of it's traditional roles. Euro style nationalism is counter productive to the Pan Islamist movement, and one of it's objectives is to break down nationalism. In short if one must make parallels, they can be made to the books third section and Osama's Islamist movement operations, but only very weak correlation to sections one and two. This book is written in a way that requires the reader to work hard, but it is worth the effort.

A Frightening Warning about Mass Man and "Virtue" of Thoughtlessness

Haannah Arendt's THE ORIGINS OF TOTAITARIANISM(TOT)is both a thoughtful book and a frightening view of both the background of totalitarianism as well as the practical application of this political phenomena. The reader should realize this book requires time and careful thought to appreciate the book's importance. The first section of the book deals with antisemitism which Miss Arendt argues was a cornerstone of later totalitarianism. She argues that the gradual development of mass culture and mass politics resulted in targeting and scapegoating any target minority such as Jews. She explains that antisemitism was a gradual political movement that exploded in the late 19th and especially in the 20th century. A different thesis could have been presented, but thus far this is the best one this reviewer has read. Part two of the book explains how imperialism and racism merged especailly during the Age of Nationalism. Religious discord was replaced by sociological and political theories that not only extolled nation but also race and blood. This section deals with these two concepts both in Western Europe and Eastern Europe. One must remember that persecution of Jews was particulary lethal in Eastern Europe between World War I and World War II and espeically during The Second World War. Part three of the book is the best section of THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM. If readers have difficutly with sections one and two of this book, they owe it to themselves to at least read section three. Miss Arendt makes a frightening assessment that the liquidation (mass murder of people of race or class) was not so much personal vendetta as these mass murders were bureaucratic operations that were done as a matter of political policy and "normal" bureaucratic operations. She warns readers that totalitarian leaders changed enemies almost weekly. In other words, those who were innocent one time were "enemies of the state or people" later. In other words, totalitarian leaders never never exhausted their enemies' lists and kept the masses alert for supposed enemies regardless of the rapid changes in those designated for mass murder. One quote that should alert thoughtful readers is, "The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any." The serious implication is that totalitarian leaders suspect that thoughtlessness is a virtue which benefits the leaders of the mass political movements. The fact is that once innocent people were arrested, they were "non-persons" whose memories were altered and then forgotten. This book is a serious warning to anyone who takes pride in individual liberties and appreciates individual achievement regardless of their religious convictions or ancestry. Miss Arendt is clear that totalitarian leaders do not recognize talent except as talented individuals may threaten their arrogant self importance. Readers would do well to also read Orwell's 1984 and Hoffer's THE

The foundational study of totalitarianism.

Over half a century after its original publication, "The Origins of Totalitarianism" is still the most important treatise on totalitarianism in government. Arendt's book is also just as relevant and important today as it was in the mid-20th Century. The book is divided into three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. In the first section, Arendt tracks the rise of antisemitism in Europe, looking mainly at 19th Century events and situations that aided the spread of this phenomenon through European culture. The Dreyfus Affair, which sharply divided France and ultimately became a political battle between antisemites and their opponents at the end of the 19th Century, gets more attention than any other event in this chapter. In the middle section on imperialism, Arendt shows how the rise and fall of the continental European imperialist movements of the 19th Century (mainly, Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism) helped set the stage for their 20th Century totalitarian successors. As she puts it in opening the chapter on "the Pan Movements": "Nazism and Bolshevism owe more to Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism (respectively) than to any other ideology or political movement. This is most evident in foreign politics, where the strategies of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia have followed so closely the well-known programs of conquest outlined by the pan-movements before and during the first World War that totalitarian aims have frequently been mistaken for the pursuance of some permanent German or Russian interests. While neither Hitler nor Stalin has ever acknowledged his debt to imperialism in the development of his methods of rule, neither has hesitated to admit his indebtedness to the pan-movements' ideology or to imitate their slogans." It's a testament to the truth and prescience of Arendt's work that the preceding passage remains as timely as ever, given the ongoing collapse of the Pan-Arabist movement which dominated the Middle East during the second half of the 20th Century and the battle between democracy and totalitarian Islamofascism over which will rise up next. The first two sections lead perfectly into the third and most important part of the book: the section on totalitarianism. Arendt shows how Nazism and Bolshevism were much more similar in their goals, practices, ideologies, and enemies than many people often believe or want to admit. They were both mass movements that sprang from cultures that had largely dismissed any objective truths. (Arendt: "The ideal subject of totalitarianism is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.") Both movements sought power for the sake of power, were rigidly ideological, made widespread use of terror, sought not only to punish and kill their enemies (as many brutal governments before them had done) but to dehumanize them and erase any trace of their

Totalitarianism: Nazism and Communism.

Hannah Arendt's _The Origins of Totalitarianism_ is a book that takes a hard look at two rival totalitarian movements in the twentieth century, Soviet Communism and Nazism, and traces their historical roots. The book is divided into three volumes focusing on Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. The first of these volumes is concerned with the historical origins of Antisemitism. Arendt examines some of the ways historians have dealt with the historical roots of Antisemitism. For example, some historians have argued based on a "scapegoat theory" that the Jews were used as an innocent scapegoat for the world's ills. Arendt concludes that such approaches are flawed because they fail to take into account the full historical situation of the Jews. Arendt explores the rise of Antisemitism in the birth of the nation-state, the emancipation of the Jews, the rise of the Jewish financiers, the roles of Jews within society, and the infamous Dreyfus affair. Of particular interest here is the role of conpiracy theories concerning such individuals as Benjamin Disraeli or the infamous forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The idea that the Jews constitute a race or are members of secret societies or clubs played an important role in the historical development of Antisemitism. The second of the volumes in this book is concerned with the rise of Imperialism. Here, a discussion of racism and racial thinking is examined involving such racial theorists as Count Arthur de Gobineau and various forms of Social Darwinism. The role of the Boers in South Africa is looked at and a thorough examination of the lives of such individuals as Cecil Rhodes, who called for the creation of a secret society of aristocratic Nordic elite, is made. The great Pan Movements, Pan-Slavism, Pan-Germanism, and the Pan-Arabism of T. E. Lawrence are dealt with and their subsequent roles in the creation of the totalitarian states is explored. The final volume of this book is concerned with Totalitarianism proper. Here, the role of propaganda and the secret police, as well as terror and the concentration camps are dealt with in their place in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Arendt explores each of these issues and shows why they are so particularly disturbing. Arendt contends that totalitarianism sought to annihilate the nature of man completely. Repression and terror abound within the totalitarian state and freedom is virtually nonexistent. Written during the Cold War period and just after the Second World War, this book takes an important look into the minds of such totalitarian leaders as Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. Their movements of Nazism and Soviet Communism continue to haunt the modern world even though they have been largely extinguished. The book is important today not only for historical reasons, but also because it gives a unique view of the world within a totalitarian society and the unique political danger that such totalitarian movements and
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