Critical Inquiry 16 (2): 291–312. (1990)

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What interests us and claims our attention in Nazism is, essentially, its ideology, in the definition Hannah Arendt has given of this term in her book on The Origins of Totalitarianism. In this work, ideology is defined as the totally self-fulfilling logic of an idea, an idea “by which the movement of history is explained as one consistent process.” “The movement of history and the logical process of this notion,” Arendt continues, “are supposed to correspond to each other, so that whatever happens, happens according to the logic of one ‘idea.’”2Ideology, in other words, interests us and claims our attention insofar as, on the one hand, it always proposes itself as a political explanation of the world, that is, as an explanation of history on the basis of a single concept—the concept of race, for example, or the concept of class—and insofar as, on the other hand, this ideological explanation or conception of the world seeks to be a total explanation or conception. This totality signifies that the explanation is indisputable, leaving neither gaps nor remainders—unlike philosophical thought, from which ideology shamelessly draws the greater part of its resources but which is characterized by a risky, problematic style, what Arendt calls the “insecurity” of philosophical questioning . 2. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism , p. 469; hereafter abbreviated OT. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy teach at the University of Human Sciences of Strasbourg, France, and are also visiting professors at the University of California, Berkeley. They are coauthors of The Literary Absolute and, related to the topic of politics, “The Jewish People Don’t Dream” . Lacoue-Labarthe is also the author of Typography and La Fiction du politique . Nancy has written “Sharing Voices” in Transforming Hermeneutics and La Communauté désoeuvrée . Brian Holmes is a doctoral candidate in romance languages and literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, and editor of the journal Qui Parle. He is currently at work on the parody of authorial identity in Cervantes and Flaubert
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DOI 10.1086/448535
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