Sociology Index

STAY IN THE HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINS

Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism refers to a state that regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior of the people. Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims. Paul C. Sondrol of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs argues that the while both authoritarianism and totalitarianism are forms of autocracy. Totalitarianism is considered to be an extreme version of authoritarianism. Totalitarianism and authoritarianism differ in key dichotomies. The utilisation of power for personal aggrandizement is more in evidence in authoritarianism than totalitarianism. Fascism is not the same as Dictatorship or a Military Dictatorship. The notion of totalitarianism as a "total" political power by the state was formulated in 1923 by Giovanni Amendola. The term 'totalitarianism' was later assigned a positive meaning in the writings of Giovanni Gentile. One of the first to use the term "totalitarianism" in the English language was the Austrian writer Franz Borkenau in his 1938 book The Communist International, in which he commented that it united the Soviet and German dictatorships more than it divided them.

In totalitarianism, dictators develop a charismatic 'mystique' and a mass-based, pseudo-democratic interdependence with their followers via the conscious manipulation of a prophetic image. In totalitarianism, self-conceptions are largely teleological. The tyrant is less a person than an indispensable 'function' to guide and reshape the universe. The radical nature of totalitarianism's purposes convinced political historians that totalitarianism represented a new form of government rather than merely despotism. Totalitarianism is a concept deep-seated in the tragedies of the two World Wars. Totalitarianism was thought of as a regime with deep, radical ambitions. Hannah Arendt’s 1951 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism drew upon the typologies of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism refers to a type of regime that is extreme in its repudiation of freedom and liberties.

In "The Open Society and Its Enemies" (1945) and "The Poverty of Historicism" (1961), Karl Popper articulated an influential critique of totalitarianism. Karl Popper contrasted the "open society" of liberal democracy with totalitarianism and argued that the latter is grounded in the belief that history moves toward an immutable future in accordance with knowable laws.

Totalitarian and Authoritarian Dictators: A Comparison of Fidel Castro and Alfredo Stroessner. Sondrol, Paul C. Journal of Latin American Studies 23(3): October 1991.