By taking into account dissident/political and art historical interpretations of Soviet art, I analyze how polemics about totalitarianism in the West, which generally corresponded with Cold War debates and Eastern European dissident thought, shaped the post-Soviet evaluations of national artistic legacies. It is argued that the political relationship with the totalitarian past, like in many post-socialist areas where the immediate past was subjected to radical re-evaluation, affected Lithuanian artists’ and critics’ attitude towards local Soviet art. Because of an obvious (...) lack of underground art in Soviet Lithuania, however, the retrospective usage of political categories here became problematic. Especially in international representations, the complexities of artists’ relationship with officialdom came to be routinely assigned to the phenomenon of non-conformism; this eventually obfuscated the differences between the Lithuanian Soviet art context as somewhat different from the Russian case. (shrink)
In 1952, Waldemar Gurian, founding editor of The Review of Politics, commissioned Eric Voegelin, then a professor of political science at Louisiana State University, to review Hannah Arendt’s recently published The Origins of Totalitarianism . She was given the right to reply; Voegelin would furnish a concluding note. Preceding this dialogue, Voegelin wrote a letter to Arendt anticipating aspects of his review; she responded in kind. Arendt’s letter to Voegelin on totalitarianism, written in German, has never appeared in (...) print before. She wrote two drafts of it, the first and longest being the more interesting. It contained an early reference to her thinking about the relationship among plurality, politics, and philosophy. It also invoked her notion of the compelling “logic” of totalitarian ideology. But this was not the letter Voegelin received. Because of this, he misunderstood significant parts of her argument. Below, the two versions of Arendt’s letter are translated. They are prefaced by a translation of Voegelin’s initial message to Arendt. An introduction compares Arendt’s letters, offers context, and provides a snapshot of Arendt’s and Voegelin’s perceptions of each other. Their views of political religion and human nature are also highlighted. Keyed to Arendt and Voegelin’s letters are pertinent aspects of the debate in The Review of Politics that followed their epistolary exchange. (shrink)
[Excerpted From Editor's Introduction] Matthew Crippen takes this up in a Marcusian critique of Wittgenstein that attends, among other things, to the place of silence in that discourse. Referring to Horkheimer’s citation of the Latin aphorism that silence is consent, Crippen is critical of Wittgenstein’s admonition that we must pass over in silence those matters of which we cannot speak. This raises fascinating questions for critical theory that Crippen explores particularly with reference to Marcuse’s concept of one-dimensionality. To the extent (...) that Wittgenstein’s philosophy is “therapeutic,” it may effectively contain dissent by “helping” dissenters become “well-adjusted.” Marcuse, of course, was particularly concerned with the power of Total States— and particularly those engendered by advanced industrial capitalism—to contain dissent precisely by using therapeutic techniques to maintain adjustment. Bringing Marcuse and Wittgenstein together here has particularly explosive possibilities. In the context of a Total State, transformation depends on the possibility of calling the State into question from the inside (since “total” States systematically eliminate “outsides”). This is the point at which Wittgenstein’s silence becomes most intriguing. What is it, we must ask, that we cannot say? Silence may be (as Martin Luther King, Jr. said) more than consent: there comes a time when silence is betrayal. But this is one of many places where it pays to look at what is done as much as what is said. What game, we might ask, is Wittgenstein playing? And, more to the point, what is the field of play that joins Wittgenstein and Marcuse? John Cage famously said “I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry as I need it...” Crippen begins a process (via Wittgenstein) of putting poetry into play that has important implications for the public work of philosophers. (shrink)
Hope and Memory: Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Tzvetan Todorov; David Bellos The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia by Richard Overy Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared by Henry Rousso; Lucy B. Golsan Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison by Ian Kershaw; Moshe Lewin Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Five Interventions in the use of a Notion by Slavoj Zizek.
Totalitarianism theory was one of the ratifying principles of the Cold War, and remains an important component of contemporary political discourse. Its origins, however, are little understood. Although widely seen as a secular product of anticommunist socialism, it was originally a theological notion, rooted in the political theory of Catholic personalism. Specifically, totalitarianism theory was forged by Catholic intellectuals in the mid-1930s, responding to Carl Schmitt's turn to the in 1931. In this essay I explore the notion's formation (...) and circulation through the Catholic public sphere in both France and Austria, where was born as a new form of the traditional Catholic animus against the nation state project. (shrink)
In the Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt makes the unexpected statement that totalitarian violence "is expressed much more frighteningly in the organization of its followers than in the physical liquidation of its opponents." Of course, her intention is not to deny the radical physical violence of totalitarianism but rather to understand the distinctive features of totalitarian terror. In order to fully understand the importance of what Arendt is describing, we should compare this first moment of the analysis with (...) another assertion that seems just as paradoxical and that is also in The Origins of Totalitarianism: noting totalitarianism's contempt for facts and reality, Arendt remarks that the propaganda of totalitarian movements is "invariably as frank as it is mendacious." Totalitarian propaganda does not just lie about the aims and real actions of totalitarian movements or regimes: it also gives itself the organization required to change the real world and make it "true" to its assertions, though they be utterly absurd and utterly monstrous. Through totalitarian organization the natural bonds of solidarity and communication are broken; they are replaced by distrust and informing. The objective is to pervert human plurality into a mass of fragmented individuals, to suppress the common world and substitute it with alienation from the world, from others, and from oneself. From then on, everything is blurred for the outside observer who would still like to distinguish between adherence to the regime out of conviction and submission through terror, organization, and indoctrination. The issue of knowing whether this enthusiasm is forced or sincere loses much of its pertinence. Let us keep this important point in mind when we pass judgment too rapidly on the "fanaticism" of Islamic crowds streaming down the streets of Teheran or any other totalitarian theocracy. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to show that Hannah Arendt’s understanding of totalitarianism is indebted to the analysis of National Socialism elaborated by Franz Neumann in Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism . It is argued that Arendt adopted the central thesis of Neumann according to which Nazi Germany is a ‘non-state’ and that this thesis as well as its presuppositions are discernible in her overall approach, developed in The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Bauman's work can be understood as a critical theory, but its east European context needs to be established alongside the west European sensibilities of the Frankfurt School. The question of Soviet modernity and the status of the Polish experience of which Bauman was part need to be placed alongside the more famous critique of the Holocaust, which can be more readily aligned with Horkheimer and Adorno's views in Dialectic of Enlightenment. To this end, some of Bauman's essays and arguments on (...) the Soviet and Polish experience are reviewed in order to begin to fill out this other dimension of Bauman's critique of modernity and totalitarianism. Both Bauman's views on eastern Europe, and my survey of them, are offered as hints for those that follow. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to contribute to an understanding of Hannah Arendt’s special place in present-day political theory by means of a contrast between her Origins of Totalitarianism and four important political science studies of National Socialism and totalitarianism, three written by authors who shared the status of involuntary emigrant with Arendt, that are offered as constituting the original context of her work. A critical appreciation of the seminal works by Ernst Fraenkel, Franz L. Neumann, Sigmund (...) Neumann, and Carl Joachim Friedrich and Zbigniew Brezinski, with special emphasis on questions of method, opens the way to a reconsideration of the distinctly philosophical character of Arendt’s work, and its shocking challenges to the scientific orientations of political science. (shrink)
This essay discusses totalitarian theories with regard to their capacity to interpret in a normatively plausible way such different dictatorships as Nazism, Stalinism and post-Stalinism. In contrast to theoretical approaches which subsume all these regimes under a single concept (totalitarianism as total control), it argues in favor of discerning terror and ideology as main characteristics (totalitarianism as extermination). The focus on National Socialism and Stalinism needs further differentiation. Theories of bureaucratic structures and charismatic domination may help in distinguishing (...) both regimes' very particularities; at the same time, however, they seem to fail relevant aspects of historical reality. (shrink)
iek's thinking departs from the Lacanian claim that we live in a symbolic order, not a real world, and that the Real is what we desire, but can never know or grasp. There is a fundamental virtuality of reality that points to the lie in every truth-claim, and there are two ways of dealing with this:repression and denial. An ideology, a system or a regime becomes totalitarian when it denies the virtual character of both its world and its subject (democracy (...) represses truth's basic lie, which makes it possible for the repressed to return). iek's analysis of totalitarianism, particularly Stalinism, shows how a totalitarian system denies its subject, which, being desire for the Real, cannot act in the name of truth but must acknowledge the contingency of its action (a political act can fail to reach its goal), whereas an established system can no longer fail and has to deny its flaws. Any political act disrupts the (evolution of) the symbolic order and thus is revolutionary, creating an event ex nihilo. An act is a jump into the inconsistency of the symbolic order, i.e. into das Ding, a jump both into and out of the nihil in which our world is grounded. Politics therefore can never be Realpolitik. The realization that politics is a symbolic phenomenon, supported not by the real, but by signifiers, is the Lacanian foundation of iek's political theory. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThis paper examines Hannah Arendt's notion of citizenship with reference to her account of loneliness in the modern age. Whereas recent scholarship has emphasized Arendt's notion of the “right to have rights” in order to advance her conception of citizenship in the context of global democratic theory, I maintain that this discourse threatens to overshadow the depth of her critical relation to the liberal tradition. By turning to loneliness, I aim to show that Arendt's understanding of citizenship guides a prescient (...) critique of the basic assumptions that underlie notions of citizenship within liberal political theory. On her view, these forms of citizenship do not secure liberty, but instead reproduce the very loneliness that has made modern individuals susceptible to totalitarian domination. With this, I argue that Arendt poses her notion of citizenship as an antidote to loneliness and, thus, to the vulnerability of modern political life to totalitarianism. (shrink)
Developments in both China and Russia are a challenge to political science, and more particularly to theories of political culture. Both countries are engaged in profound processes of transition involving the abandonment of totalitarianism and the adoption of market-based economies. It is, however, far from clear what form their political systems will eventually take. They are currently following strikingly different paths. Are the differences a reflection of their distinctive cultures? Or, are the differences more structural, a manifestation of their (...) respective stages of economic and social development? Or, are they merely the consequences of the idiosyncratic choices and policy decisions of the two leaderships? (shrink)
TotalitarianismTotalitarianism is best understood as any system of political ideas that is both thoroughly dictatorial and utopian. It is an ideal type of governing notion, and as such, it cannot be realised perfectly. Faced with the brutal reality of paradigmatic cases like Stalin’s USSR and Nazi Germany, philosophers, political theorists and social scientists have … Continue reading Totalitarianism →.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, David Riesman and Hannah Arendt were engaged in an animated discussion about the meaning and character of totalitarianism. Their disagreement reflected, in part, different experiences and dissonant intellectual backgrounds. Arendt abhorred the social sciences, finding them pretentious and obfuscating. Riesman, in contrast, abandoned a career in law to take up the sociological vocation, which he combined with his own heterodox brand of humanistic psychology. This article delineates the stakes of the Arendt Riesman (...) debate by examining Arendt’s critique of social science and Riesman’s defence of a sociological interpretation of totalitarianism. In addition, the article argues that Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism misdescribed the nature of Nazi and Bolshevik societies in ways that damaged her political account more generally. Riesman intuited that weakness and, as the following article shows, modern historical research has confirmed it. (shrink)
In recent decades, historians have probed the kinds of narratives that they tell in constructing the past. In the process, we have devoted too little attention to the ways that historical actors themselves translate beliefs and ideologies into narratives of events, which themselves become causal factors of great importance. In this essay, and the longer work from which it is drawn, I examine this translation as it emerged in Nazi Germany's anti-Semitic propaganda campaigns during World War II and the Holocaust. (...) In so doing, I argue that the concept of totalitarianism, when applied to the Nazi dictatorship, remains an indispensable…. (shrink)
We are now, after some delay, beginning actively to discuss a theme—or is it still a problem?—that has become traditional for Western sociology and political science—namely, totalitarianism. If we start from the firmly established view that construes totalitarianism as a social structure in which the state devours and exercises maximum control over all spheres of the social life of individuals, i.e., a structure based on maximum coercion , we can, it would seem, simply make concrete extrapolations of the (...) existing theoretical model to the countries and regions we have chosen to study. But it seems to me that there are still a number of not fully worked out aspects in the methodology employed to study totalitarianism, and in applied studies this leads either to a pan-totalitarian view of history or to the localization of totalitarianism in a few countries . I think that this situation cannot be "harmonized" in the traditional manner by distinguishing between a "broad" and a "narrow" meaning of the term ‘totalitarianism.’ Hence, rather than trying to "not notice" the methodological problem, I propose dealing with it in all theoretical seriousness. (shrink)
During the autumn of 1949, Hannah Arendt completed the manuscript of The Origins of Totalitarianism. On 1 October of the same year, the People’s Republic of China was founded under the leadership of Mao Zedong. This article documents Arendt’s claim in 1949 that the prospects of totalitarianism in China were ‘frighteningly good’, and yet her ambivalent judgment, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, about the totalitarian character of the Maoist regime. Despite being the premier theorist of totalitarian (...) formations, Arendt’s interest in China was half-hearted and her analysis often wildly inaccurate. The concern of this paper, however, is less with the veracity of her remarks, than with a counterfactual question. If Arendt had known what we know now, would she have considered Maoist China to be a totalitarian regime? Put another way: to what extent is our modern picture of Mao’s regime consistent with Arendt’s depiction of the Soviet Union under Stalin or Germany under Hitler? While Arendt got many of her facts wrong, her theory of totalitarianism — as shapeless, febrile, voracious of human flesh, and endlessly turbulent — was in good measure applicable to Mao’s regime, even though she failed to recognize it. (shrink)
This article reconstructs the personal and intellectual friendship between two cosmopolitan intellectuals: Andrea Caffi and Nicola Chiaromonte , who met while in exile in Paris in 1932. After a brief recapitulation of their previous biographies, and an overall presentation of their participation in the revolutionary antifascist group ‘Giustizia e Libertà’ in the thirties, this article provides a detailed analysis of their dialogues and disagreements in the forties and fifties on the topics of socialism and revolution, antifascism and anti-totalitarianism, utopia (...) and history. Particular attention is devoted to their contribution to the debates in the antifascist journal of GL and in the radical journal of Politics . Examined closely, the friendship between Caffi and Chiaromonte appears as a sequence of convergences and divergences, understandings and ruptures, which reflect the tensions and lacerations of the European civil war and its post-war legacy . Looked at again from a distance, however, it reveals a fundamental intellectual unity—a profound apolitical affinity in a century of radical politics which had fed wars, revolutions and totalitarian regimes. (shrink)
_Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism_ provides rich new insights into the history of political thought and clinical knowledge. In these chapters, internationally renowned historians and cultural theorists discuss landmark debates about the uses and abuses of ‘the talking cure’ and map the diverse psychologies and therapeutic practices that have featured in and against tyrannical, modern regimes. These essays show both how the Freudian movement responded to and was transformed by the rise of fascism and communism, the Second World War, (...) and the Cold War, and how powerful new ideas about aggression, destructiveness, control, obedience and psychological freedom were taken up in the investigation of politics. They identify important intersections between clinical debate, political analysis, and theories of minds and groups, and trace influential ideas about totalitarianism that took root in modern culture after 1918, and still resonate in the twenty-first century. At the same time, they suggest how the emergent discourses of ‘totalitarian’ society were permeated by visions of the unconscious. Topics include: the psychoanalytic theorizations of anti-Semitism; the psychological origins and impact of Nazism; the post-war struggle to rebuild liberal democracy; state-funded experiments in mind control in Cold War America; coercive ‘re-education’ programmes in Eastern Europe, and the role of psychoanalysis in the politics of decolonization. A concluding trio of chapters argues, in various ways, for the continuing relevance of psychoanalysis, and of these mid-century debates over the psychology of power, submission and freedom in modern mass society. Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism will prove compelling for both specialists and readers with a general interest in modern psychology, politics, culture and society, and in psychoanalysis. The material is relevant for academics and post-graduate students in the human, social and political sciences, the clinical professions, the historical profession and the humanities more widely. (shrink)
Claude Lefort is one of the leading social and political theorists in France today. This anthology of his most important work published over the last four decades makes his writing widely accessible to an English-speaking audience for the first time.With exceptional skill Lefort combines the analysis of contemporary political events with a sensitivity to the history of political thought. His critical account of the development of bureaucracy and totalitarianism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is a timely contribution (...) to current debates about the nature and shortcomings of these societies. His incisive analyses of Marx's theory of history and concept of ideology provide the backdrop for a highly original account of the role of symbolism in modern societies. While critical of many traditional assumptions and doctrines, Lefort develops a political position based on a reappraisal of the idea of human rights and a reconsideration of what "democracy" means today.The Political Forms of Modern Society is a major contribution to contemporary social and political theory. The volume includes a substantial introduction that describes the context of Lefort's writings and highlights the central themes of his work.Claude Lefort teaches social and political theory at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He was a founder, with Cornelius Castoriadis, of the influential independent journal of the left, Socialisme ou Barbarie. John B. Thompson is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Cambridge. (shrink)
The first political theory of post-Communism examines its implications for understanding liberty, rights, transitional justice, property rights, privatization, rule of law, centrally planned public institutions, and the legacies of totalitarian thought in language and discourse. The transition to post-totalitarianism was the spontaneous adjustment of the rights of the late-totalitarian elite to its interest. Post-totalitarian governments faced severe scarcity in the supply of justice. Rough justice punished the perpetrators and compensated their victims. Historical theories of property rights became radical, and (...) consequentialist theories, conservative. Totalitarianism in Europe disintegrated but did not end. The legacies of totalitarianism in higher education met New Public Management, totalitarian central planning under a new label. Totalitarianism divorced language from reality through the use of dialectics that identified opposites and the use of logical fallacies to argue for ideological conclusions. This book illustrates these legacies in the writings of Habermas, Derrida, and Žižek about democracy, personal responsibility, dissidence, and totalitarianism. (shrink)
By the fourth decade of the twentieth century... the earthly paradise had been discredited at exactly the moment when it became realizable. George OrwellThe subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition.Hannah Arendt.