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It is often necessary to reread the books of yesterday to make some sense of current affairs The Origins of Totalitarianism is possibly one of these books, a massive (600 pages), dense volume on political philosophy, written in the aftermath of World War II, by a Germanborn woman of Jewish descent Oddly enough, she had a onetime affair with Martin Heidegger, one of the most prominent metaphysicists of the twentieth century, and, quite notably, an early member of the Nazi party.Hannah Arendt witnessed the rise of antisemitism in Germany in the early 1930s and even got arrested by the Gestapo She fled to France and, when the Wehrmacht invaded France, fled again to America The Origins of Totalitarianism is Nietzschean in its approach (cf The Birth of Tragedy or On the Genealogy of Morality) It covers a vast amount of topics:a) Antisemitism and Jewish identity, through its varied and palpable expressions (and a focus on the divisive Dreyfus affair in late 19th century France).b) Imperialism, the domination of the wealthy, white bourgeoisie, and of capitalistic expansionism over a Mob that seeks a bigmouth/firmhand leader, is ready to believe in plain ideology, and willing to single out a scapegoat, based on racism (or such).c) Totalitarianism, in its two central figures: Nazism (based on racism) and Bolshevism (based on communism), not to be confused, says Arendt, with other regimes such as despotism, tyranny or dictatorship, inasmuch as totalitarianism proper is based on: turning people into a commodity; the prohibition to dissent; and the utter control of each individual’s every move (the end of private life) — Internet and big data surveillance, in this sense, might well become a totalitarian’s dream in the context of 21th century capitalism.You can certainly skip the messy bulk of this book and read only the last chapter, a very dynamic text titled Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government This chapter is a masterful analysis on ideology Ideology — often based on religion or pseudoscience — considers itself as the sole and total truth Ideology (aka “alternative facts”) must always prevail over facts (aka “fake news”) Anything that doesn’t back up the ideology's belief system or final purpose should be suppressed In other words, blind readytoroll beliefs, comforting fantasies, need to win over the complexities of reality, and those who stand up for the facts only deserve to be called names.Okay, let’s get a bitspecific for a second With an ideology, actual reality is a “hoax” (climate change my foot, outrageous wealth inequality my ass, sexual predator pull the other one); the end justifies the means, because quite frankly you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs (so let’s chuck, say, the Climate Accord, or the Customs Union, or the taxes on the 1% plutocrats, or the Spanish Constitution, or this abused woman's testimony if it all makes my clique of crumbly oligarchs happy); conspiracy theories rule (Mexicans, Muslims and Chinese want to defeat us) Reality has not happened: ideology is truer and carries the day, always However, if ideology has a hard time, because reality is a bit too chaotic to handle, have a scapegoat ready and heap abuse on them (again: Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, Democrats, Women, Jews, Gays, Blacks, Atheists, the EU, and so on).In short: ideology needs people who cannot make the difference between fiction and reality any and consent to be led like lemmings In Arendt's own words: The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist (Penguin paperback edition, p 622) Moreover, this ideal subject of totalitarian rule is best brewed when people mope around in isolation, loneliness, impotence, uprootedness and superfluousness (let's add unemployment, poverty and distress): an all too common experience in our postmodern condition Under a rule of terror, a madhouse or prisonlike society, no one is ever floundering or left alone any.Arendt’s examples are mainly Nazism and Bolshevism However, her book can be used to decipher other political regimes For instance, in fiction — think of Kafka’s world in The Trial, Orwell's Oceania in 1984 or Atwood’s Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale Butimportantly, it can help us think of today’s regimes in China and North Korea, or in some Middle Eastern countries where the sharia is enforced fully and violently, or possibly in Putin’s Russia Also, it is an invitation to reflect on the disturbing tendencies of the populist/nationalist movements, Right or Left, wherever they take shape (and they do take shape everywhere in Western countries) in our present day, which, with their reckless attitude, run the risk of becoming the germs of a future form of totalitarianism Let us keep our eyes wide open. [[ READ E-PUB ]] ☛ The Origins of Totalitarianism ↾ هذا الكتاب هو أحد المراجع الكلاسيكية في العلوم السياسية يتناول المؤسّسات التي تنشئها التنظيمات والحركات التوتاليتارية، كما يدرس أوجه عملها، مركّزاً على أبرز شكلين للهيمنة التوتاليتارية: النازية الألمانية والستالينية السوفييتية وفي هذا يتم رصد الكيفية التي يصار بموجبها إلى تحويل الطبقات الاجتماعية إلى جماهير، وتفكيك دور الدعاية في تشويه صورة العالم غير التوتاليتاري، وطبعاً اللجوء إلى الإرهاب كونه جوهر هذا النمط من الأنظمةوفي فصل ختامي لامع تحلّل المؤلفة طبيعة العزلة والانكفاء وتفتّت الروابط المجتمعية باعتبارها من الشروط الضرورية المسبقة لنشأة السيطرة التوتاليتارية Detailed and sobering, On the Origins of Totalitarianism charts the rise of the world’s most infamous form of government during the first half of the twentieth century In the first two parts Arendt traces the roots of totalitarianism to antisemitism and imperialism, two of the most vicious, consequential ideologies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries In the third and final section she turns her attention to Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, arguing that terror and the loss of individuality lie at the heart of totalitarian government Arendt’s breadth of knowledge is breathtaking, her work accessible and harrowing. Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life.Some have said this should be required reading to prepare ourselves to face the changing political climate armed with information, as we watch again the rise of nationalism, the rise of antisemitism, the rise to power of what could be a new demagogue: 'a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason.' We have every reason to be greatly worried On February 17, 2017, Donald Trump called the news media the enemy of the American people in a tweet If that doesn't scare you, nothing will.This book could be said to be quite dated, having been first published in 1951, shortly after the end of WWII, and during the midst of Stalin's Soviet regime This particular edition was updated in 1966, with a long introduction by the author detailing the many changes in the world at that time But of course so muchhas happened since then: the breakup of the Soviet Union and rise to power of Putin in Russia, to name just two.So read this book for information on totalitarianism, its origins and its elements, and not so much for an uptodate history lesson Once again, as I frequently do with heavy material, I'm planning to read this in small doses, perhaps a chapter a day, to try to digest the information Part One: Antisemitism with chapters entitled: An Outrage to Common Sense; The Jews, the NationState and the Birth of Antisemitism; and The Dreyfus Affair Part Two: Imperialism with chapters entitled: The Political Emancipation of the Bourgeoisie; Racethinking Before Racism; Race and Bureaucracy; Continental Imperialism: The PanMovements; and the Decline of the NationState and the End of the Rights of Man.Interesting quote: 'Expansion is everything,' said Cecil Rhodes, and fell into despair, for every night he saw overhead 'these starsthese vast worlds which we can never reach I would annex the planets if I could.' Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came up against national limitations to its economic expansion.Part Three: Totalitarianism with chapters entitled A Classless Society; The Totalitarian Movement; and Totalitarianism in Power.This section was the reason I wanted to read this book in the first place, to understand what circumstances allow the rise of totalitarianism To understand the fascination exercised by Hitler:Society is always prone to accept a person offhand for what he pretends to be, so that a crackpot posing as a genius always has a certain chance of being believed In modern society, with its characteristic lack of discerning judgment, this tendency is strengthened, so that someone who not only holds opinions but also presents them in a tone of unshakable conviction will not so easily forfeit his prestige, no matter how many times he has been demonstrably wrong.their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.Arendt wrote this book just a few short years after WWII had ended People were still in shock and there was a lot of disbelief surrounding what had gone on in the concentration camps: Nazis have always known that men determined to commit crimes will find it expedient to organize them on the vastest, most improbable scale Not only because this renders all punishments provided by the legal system inadequate and absurd; but because the very immensity of the crimes guarantees that the murderers who proclaim their innocence with all manner of lies will bereadily believed than the victims who tell the truth Incredible!!Concentration camps can very aptly be divided into three types corresponding to three basic Western conceptions of life after death:Hades: relatively mild forms of camps for getting undesirable elements out of the waythe forerunner of the Displaced Persons camps established after the war.Purgatory: chaotic forced labor camps such as utilized by the Soviets.Hell: perfected by the Nazis and organized for the greatest possible torment All three types have one thing in common: the human masses sealed off in them are treated as if they no longer existed, as if what happened to them were no longer of any interest to anybody, as if they were already dead and some evil spirit gone mad were amusing himself by stopping them for a while between life and death before admitting them to eternal death Chilling, isn't it? I would give this book 2 stars for ease of reading and 5 stars for importance Hannah Arendt was obviously a brilliant scholar and her book is well worth the time it takes to read through all the historical background she provides I may not have retained much but the details were endlessly fascinating I would say that part three on totalitarianism could be read alone if one just wantsinformation on that. Profound insight into totalitarian movementsnot just how they happen but why, getting at the psychology behind their appeal and the social and psychological conditions that allow them to grow The writing is cleareyed, penetrating, and deeply unsettling. I'd always assumed totalitarianism and dictatorship were the same thing But nope I learnedabout modern politics and power reading this masterpiece by Hannah Arendt than in the past 20 years of reading and studying I was shocked to find that certain baffling features of contemporary political movements suddenly make perfect, terrifying sense when viewed from a totalitarian perspective Some fun things I learned about totalitarian movements:Totalitarian movements deny objective reality and deliberately enclose themselves and their populations in a selfmanufactured world of everchanging fictions.Totalitarian movements are not pronational movements A totalitarian movement's goal is ultimately to destroy the nation it inhabits Similarly, totalitarianism doesn't use the law to control its population (I'd always thought totalitarianism meantand harsher laws) Totalitarian movements abandon all law and strive toward utter lawlessness In totalitarian movements, the power of the military becomes second to the power of intelligence agencies.Totalitarian movements always aspire to global dominationGood fun! Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting begins by recounting “a crucial moment in Czech history” when Klement Gottwald emerged on a balcony in Prague to announce the birth of the Communist Czechoslovakia The image of him and Clementis, who took off his fur hat and placed it on Gottwald’s cold head, became as iconic for Czechs as the flagraising in Iwo Jima has become for Americans “Four years later,” however, “Clementis was charged with treason and hanged The propaganda section immediately airbrushed him out of history and, obviously, out of all the photographs as well Ever since Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone Where Clementis once stood, there is only a bare palace wall All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.”When I first read The Origins of Totalitarianism 33 years ago, that scene had a strong hold on me (I later used the passage for a final exam essay question when I taught high school government) Yuri Andropov had just replaced Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union, despots like Erich Honecker and Nicolae Ceauşesu ruled their subjects with impunity, and in Poland Solidarność began an unstoppable revolution The Cold War was a stark reality; people throughout the world feared the prospect of nuclear annihilation As a child and young adult who traveled a great deal to East Germany in the 70s and early 80s, it seemed important to neglect my studies and delve into this book because it might help me to understand what I experienced on both sides of the Iron Curtain.Yet rather than becoming an interesting historical intellectual exercise, Arendt’s analysis is once again pertinent in, of all places, the United States in the 21st century, even though I don’t think the U.S will become a totalitarian dictatorship, even if the possible election of the 2016 Republican nominee for president causes many to think it might It isimportant to understand, as Arendt concludes in her discussion of totalitarianism in power that “Totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.” Even though Arendt published her book in 1951 and revised it in the mid60s, it is still relevant These “strong temptations” are, according to Arendt, built on a foundation of human isolation—which is distinct from loneliness and solitude Isolation can be manipulated to create a mob, as opposed to the organic concept of “the people.” As Arendt explains with excruciating detail, antiSemitism and imperialism were fundamental to fertilize the soil for the 20th century totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union But no such system, including Mao’s China and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, can completely be explained by these two ideas alone Arendt provides elastic examples to understand how totalitarian tendencies could be turned into political tactics This includes use of legends, “which were needed precisely because history itself would hold man responsible for deeds he had not done and for consequences he had not foreseen.” Arendt sees similarities in tribal nationalism and the seemingly contradictory panmovements that crossed national boundaries, both of which were born from “tremendous arrogance, inherent in its selfconcentration, which dares to measure a people, its past and present, by a yardstick of exalted inner qualities and inevitable rejects it visible existence, tradition, institutions, and culture.” Each leads to a historical ignorance which can be fabricated and manipulated and, as the intellectual father of modern fascism, Joseph de Maistre, articulated, a faith in irrationality in human affairs Taken together, these concepts are “ways of escaping…common responsibility,” which is essential to lull isolated people into thinking and believing that they are part of a larger authentic culture or movement.A mob of isolated individuals’ group identity is built on many fictions They arelikely to accept rule by arbitrary decree because accepting “the carefully organized ignorance of specific circumstances which only an expert can know it detail” removes them from responsibility Moreover, “What convinces” them “are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably a part” and they would rather live in “a lying world of consistency.” This is much easier than the hard work of civic education and engagement It is harder to explain to these individuals, as Arendt saysforcefully, “We are not born equal; we become equal as members of a group on the strength of our decision to guarantee ourselves mutual rights.”The 2016 Republican convention, especially when viewed through the propagandistic lens of Fox News (our friends outside of the U.S really would have a hard time understanding how this can exist and thrive in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”), provided a Petri dishlike environment to examine how leaders with totalitarian tendencies control their “fellowtravelers.” Compare some of her observations with what we witnessed in Cleveland; how the members of the movement with “a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism” are “expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders and the central unchanging ideological fiction of the movement.” Or how the fellowtravelers “had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything or nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true” and “how its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd.”It is easy to dismiss linkages of current politics to Nazism and Stalinism because of their extreme experience with eliminating “objective enemies” through terror and death camps The current brand of American xenophobia won’t go that far—at least not in public It has, unfortunately, in Syria and Iraq Some of these contemporary ideas share a fantasy of labeling some “whose past justifies suspicion” and are “‘carrier[s] of tendencies’ like the carrier[s] of a disease” and, in order for the system to function, it “constantly meets with new obstacles that have to be eliminated.” Elimination doesn’t necessarily mean death; it also can be restriction, confinement, or deportation It can include “torture” which “in this context is only the desperate and eternally futile attempt to achieve what cannot be achieved.” And it breeds “mutual suspicion” that “permeates all social relationships” and “provocation…becomes a method of dealing with…neighbor[s]” in “which everybody, willing or unwilling, is forced to follow.” Sounds a lot like Trumpism to me.On the other hand, the blind acceptance by the majority at the 2016 Democratic convention of the empty, potentially dangerous, rhetoric of “American exceptionalism” proves, as Arendt makes clear, that totalitarian tendencies are not a matter of right or left The idea of “American exceptionalism” embodies her arguments about the role of legend, an almost delusional mysticism, and a perverse redefining of pluralism to make it national rather than global Those who rightfully deride the course of the Republican Party should never fail to look into the mirror to see their own hypocrisies.Perversely, mass media and the internet have, rather than increase genuine human contact and spread information, exacerbated many of the conditions that nurture totalitarian ideas It is now easier to find—and accept as valid—information that supports misconceptions and lies It is easier to find fellowtravelers while still remaining isolated behind a keyboard and screen Just read any newspaper comments section for proof And the anonymity that comes with it has the ironic effect of making them feel part of a movement that can deny objective reality and rationalize the worst tendencies of humanity We are rapidly moving toward a world that Arendt foresaw, but could never have imagined its scope.The Origins of Totalitarianism provides useful intellectual measures and markers to better understand growing movements based on xenophobia, racism, fundamentalism—religious and otherwise— and frustration The seeming randomness of certain human events, trends, and reactions to them causes isolated individuals of all types to seek comfort and explanations that correspond to their personal Weltanschauung “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” Sadly, these trends will always be a part of our world Those who can recognize them are obligated to point them out and be constantly vigilant to explain why simple solutions to complex social and political issues do not exist We have to keep reminding others and explain why “all that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.” That is the only way to fight demagoguery that manipulates isolated individuals for political gain. certainly in the running for the most disappointing book ever first, it's on all these lists of the greatest books ever, plus it's got a really high rating on goodreads plus i open it and the first few pages are breathtaking hannah is one killer sentencecrafter a vixen of prose some sentences 50 words long but you only need to read them once because they are both precise and actionpacked and oh, the promise her intros seem to hold bold, sweeping strokes that wipe out longheld beliefs and foretell of new paradigms to come the great human cataclysms of our times will be analysed and the true causes, forces at work through the centuries, laid bare.but the promise is completely unrealised i read 200 pages closely, then skimmed through 100it turns into an excrutiating brick of mass psychobabble jews felt this way, so they acted this way, so others felt this way about them, so this made jews feel this way, so they did this.imperialists had these intentions, so they tried to do this, but it made people feel this way, so the imperialists changed to this methodology in order to make people feel this way every group is a monolith which thinks and acts like an archetypal individual which, ok, is sometimes a necessary simplification in history, but the real killer is her EVIDENCE time and time and time again, her evidence is a quote from another historian, or even a quote from a contemporary NOVEL IF YOU WANT TO PROVE A THESIS ABOUT HISTORY, YOU HAVE TO PROVE IT WITH HISTORY, NOT BY QUOTING THE CONCLUSIONS OF OTHERS i came away pretty sure that she didn't have much of a head for figures or economics almost no numbers at all are quoted as evidence even if i were convinced of her ideas, if i espoused them to someone who then challenged me to defend them, this book provides almost nothing i could use but then of course what makes the whole thing even worse is that i don't think she's correct at all.there is one tiny speck of possibility hannah had obviously read thousands of books and essays and letters on the subject i suppose it is possible that she assumed her audience would also be like her, so that she only needed to point at her sources, rather than reprise the events and people that are the subjects of history there are multiple footnotes on most pages and about 1000 items in the bibliography.if you want to learn how the world came to look like it does, don't read this read Tragedy and Hope, by carroll quigley Way back when I read this, I recall being somewhat surprised at how few works she actually referenced in this tripartite tome, especially in the latter two sections on Imperialism and Totalitarianism; and, for the first of these, the surprise turned to incredulity when it occurred to me that she appeared to be basing a considerable part of her argument—virtually the entirety regarding the interaction between Europe and SubSaharan Africa, IIRC—upon the most famous fictional work by Joseph Conrad Arendt is a brilliant woman and a deep thinker, but that struck me as rather suspect At least, this is what sticks with me in the here and now—it could very well be that I'm doing Arendt a disservice But, fuck it When the memory banks are sketchy, I riff away with whatever appears most recognizable upon the faded deposit slips.John Lukacs dismissed this book with contempt, tagging Arendt's writing within as shrilly verbose and her method as unhistorical, and flatly stating that her section on Totalitarianism had initially been crafted solely in regard to the Nazis, but that—with the Cold War hot and suddenly on everybody's mind—she hastily worked in references to the Communist juggernaut in an effort to cash in on the burgeoning interest and score the big bucks Now, that's just how Lukacs rolls—my remembrance is of finding the final part toughgoing but thoughtprovoking Arendt is one of those writers who may requirethan one passage through in order to gleam the point in toto, so dense with material does the prose prove to be Sadly, the details have slipped away like the toxically heady aroma of a nighliquid butter fart bugled forth in the waning glow of a summer barbecue At times I'm tempted to dig it out and give it another try—come on, you know what I'm talking about—but I'm unfortunately far from convinced that it would prove to be worth fitting in ahead of so many other potentially brilliant books. Like 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale, Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism is becoming all too relevant again Arendt spends her time on the conditions of Europe in the early 20th century be they political, economic, intellectual, spiritual to show how the Nazi movement and the Bolsheviks used the violent racist undercurrents, the rootlessness, the sadistic impulses generated by imperialism and WWI to the formation of ideological movements bent on domination of civil society and individual If one looks to the text with current events in mind one can hear the echoes and warning signs in our present politics with the terrors of this period I am not saying history repeats but it likes to rhyme to borrow from Twain If you are worried about the present Orwell, Atwood, and Arendt are good guides on what to look out for and hopefully avoid.