The Origins of Totalitarianism

The Origins of Totalitarianism

Book - 2004
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The Origins of Totalitarianism is an indispensable book for understanding the frightful barbarity of the twentieth century. Suspicious of the inevitability so often imposed by hindsight, Hannah Arendt was not interested in detailing the causes that produced totalitarianism. Nothing in the nineteenth century--indeed, nothing in human history--could have prepared us for the idea of political domination achieved by organizing the infinite plurality and differentiation of human beings as if all humanity were just one individual. Arendt believed that such a development marked a grotesque departure from all that had come before.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt sought to provide an historical account of the forces that crystallized into totalitarianism: The ebb and flow of nineteenth-century anti-Semitism (she deemed the Dreyfus Affair a dress rehearsal for the Final Solution) and he rise of European imperialism, accompanied by the invention of racism as the only possible rationalization for it. For Arendt, totalitarianism was a form of governance that eliminated the very possibility of political action. Totalitarian leaders attract both mobs and elites, take advantage of the unthinkability of their atrocities, target "objective enemies" (classes of people who are liquidated simply because of their group membership), use terror to create loyalty, rely on concentration camps, and are obsessive in their pursuit of global primacy. But even more presciently, Arendt understood that totalitarian solutions could well survive the demise of totalitarian regimes.
The Origins of Totalitarianism remains as essential a book for understanding our times as it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago.
Publisher: New York : Schocken Books, [2004]
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780805242256
Branch Call Number: 320.53 ARE
Characteristics: xxvii, 674 p. ; 24 cm


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Sep 01, 2017

People who are upset by Arendt's Eichmann In Jerusalem will get a heart attack from Origins of Totalitarianism; or they would, if they read it cover to cover -- it seems few people have. Origins is not a history book, but an analysis of history by a philosopher. Many chapters, like the one about Marcel Proust and the elite Jews of France, are stand-alone essays, with only a tangential relation to the theme of totalitarianism. As the commenter below notes, it is wordy and meandering, and has no "story" to carry the reader through, as was the case with Eichmann and his trial. But this is in part because Origins is such a cornucopia of ideas. Choose a page, any page, and they would be enough for any one ordinary book. (Please see video, for an example of a single page.) In Origins, Arendt reaches greatness, but she needs great editor to systematize her ideas; an Engels to her her Marx. This is most definitely not a book to read casually, but to read slowly and ponder.

Jun 06, 2017

"The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people in to conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages." (p. 384)
And there are many other insights that are quotable in this book, especially from the last two sections, on imperialism and totalitarianism. Statelessness, legal limbo, organizations of evil and many other topics are discussed thoughtfully, but not logically or systematically, instead it just meanders through its subjects by vague semantic relations; its a wordy sort of book.

Sep 13, 2015

Defying Hitler: A Memoir circa 1940 originally in German
Geschichte eines Deutschen. Die Erinnerungen 1914–1933
Sebastian Haffner 1907-1999 (Raimund Pretzel)
Oliver Pretzel translator (son)
Picador 2003 pbk 320 pages ISBN - 10: 0312421133 . . ISBN - 13: 9780312421137
also published by
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1st American edition 2002 ISBN: 0374161577 . . .
and . . .
The Anatomy of Fascism
Robert Owen Paxton 1932-
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2005 pbk 336 pages
ISBN - 10: 1400033918 ISBN - 13: 9781400033911 . . .

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