Totalitarianism

  • joseph stalin (left) and adolf hitler (right), who were leaders of the soviet union and nazi germany respectively, are commonly described as being the most notable dictatorial rulers of totalitarian regimes.
    mao zedong, former chairman of the communist party of china
    benito mussolini, former duce of italy
    kim il-sung, the eternal president of north korea

    totalitarianism is a political system or a form of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. it is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. political power in totalitarian states has often been held by autocrats which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media.[1]

    totalitarian regimes are often characterized by extensive political repression, a complete lack of democracy, widespread personality cultism, absolute control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of state terrorism. other aspects of a totalitarian regime includes the use of concentration camps, repressive secret police, religious persecution or state atheism, extensive practice of capital punishment, possible possession of wmds, fraudulent elections (if they take place), and potentially state-sponsored mass murder and genocides. historian robert conquest describes a totalitarian state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.[1]

    the concept was first developed in the 1920s by both weimar jurist (and later nazi academic) carl schmitt and, concurrently, the italian fascists. italian fascist benito mussolini said "everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state". schmitt used the term totalstaat in his influential 1927 work on the legal basis of an all-powerful state, the concept of the political.[2] the term gained prominence in western anti-communist political discourse during the cold war era as a tool to convert pre-war anti-fascism into postwar anti-communism.[3][4][5][6][7]

    totalitarian regimes are different from other authoritarian regimes. the latter denotes a state in which the single power holder—an individual "dictator", a committee or a junta or an otherwise small group of political elite—monopolizes political power. "[the] authoritarian state [...] is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty".[8] authoritarianism "does not attempt to change the world and human nature".[8] in contrast, a totalitarian regime attempts to control virtually all aspects of the social life, including the economy, education, art, science, private life and morals of citizens. some totalitarian governments may promote an elaborate ideology: "the officially proclaimed ideology penetrates into the deepest reaches of societal structure and the totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens".[9] it also mobilizes the whole population in pursuit of its goals. carl joachim friedrich writes that "a totalist ideology, a party reinforced by a secret police, and monopoly control of [...] industrial mass society" are the three features of totalitarian regimes that distinguish them from other autocracies.[8]

  • pre 1945 uses of the term
  • 1946–1987 scholarly proposals criteria
  • scholarly debates since 1987
  • totalitarianism in architecture
  • see also
  • references
  • further reading
  • external links

Joseph Stalin (left) and Adolf Hitler (right), who were leaders of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany respectively, are commonly described as being the most notable dictatorial rulers of totalitarian regimes.

Totalitarianism is a political system or a form of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by autocrats which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media.[1]

Totalitarian regimes are often characterized by extensive political repression, a complete lack of democracy, widespread personality cultism, absolute control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of state terrorism. Other aspects of a totalitarian regime includes the use of concentration camps, repressive secret police, religious persecution or state atheism, extensive practice of capital punishment, possible possession of WMDs, fraudulent elections (if they take place), and potentially state-sponsored mass murder and genocides. Historian Robert Conquest describes a totalitarian state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.[1]

The concept was first developed in the 1920s by both Weimar jurist (and later Nazi academic) Carl Schmitt and, concurrently, the Italian fascists. Italian fascist Benito Mussolini said "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state". Schmitt used the term Totalstaat in his influential 1927 work on the legal basis of an all-powerful state, The Concept of the Political.[2] The term gained prominence in Western anti-communist political discourse during the Cold War era as a tool to convert pre-war anti-fascism into postwar anti-communism.[3][4][5][6][7]

Totalitarian regimes are different from other authoritarian regimes. The latter denotes a state in which the single power holder—an individual "dictator", a committee or a junta or an otherwise small group of political elite—monopolizes political power. "[The] authoritarian state [...] is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty".[8] Authoritarianism "does not attempt to change the world and human nature".[8] In contrast, a totalitarian regime attempts to control virtually all aspects of the social life, including the economy, education, art, science, private life and morals of citizens. Some totalitarian governments may promote an elaborate ideology: "The officially proclaimed ideology penetrates into the deepest reaches of societal structure and the totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens".[9] It also mobilizes the whole population in pursuit of its goals. Carl Joachim Friedrich writes that "a totalist ideology, a party reinforced by a secret police, and monopoly control of [...] industrial mass society" are the three features of totalitarian regimes that distinguish them from other autocracies.[8]