- Taschenbuch: 576 Seiten
- Verlag: Mariner Books; Auflage: New. (21. März 1973)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0156701537
- ISBN-13: 978-0156701532
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,5 x 3,7 x 20,3 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 42.751 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Book) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 21. März 1973
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“I’m more convinced than ever that this book, conclusively developed out of your clarity of vision, represents a major breakthrough for our political world, the first of its kind amid all the current talk of totalitarianism. Every politician ought to read it and understand it. If another author should follow you and put what you have grasped into a logical structure that is simple and easy to teach, one will still always have to go back to the source to participate in that power that enables others to see.”
—Karl Jaspers, in a letter to Hannah Arendt (1955) -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe.
Explores the roots of totalitarianism and its culmination in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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The book is divided into three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. In the first section, Arendt tracks the rise of antisemitism in Europe, looking mainly at 19th Century events and situations that aided the spread of this phenomenon through European culture. The Dreyfus Affair, which sharply divided France and ultimately became a political battle between antisemites and their opponents at the end of the 19th Century, gets more attention than any other event in this chapter.
In the middle section on imperialism, Arendt shows how the rise and fall of the continental European imperialist movements of the 19th Century (mainly, Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism) helped set the stage for their 20th Century totalitarian successors. As she puts it in opening the chapter on "the Pan Movements": "Nazism and Bolshevism owe more to Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism (respectively) than to any other ideology or political movement. This is most evident in foreign politics, where the strategies of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia have followed so closely the well-known programs of conquest outlined by the pan-movements before and during the first World War that totalitarian aims have frequently been mistaken for the pursuance of some permanent German or Russian interests. While neither Hitler nor Stalin has ever acknowledged his debt to imperialism in the development of his methods of rule, neither has hesitated to admit his indebtedness to the pan-movements' ideology or to imitate their slogans." It's a testament to the truth and prescience of Arendt's work that the preceding passage remains as timely as ever, given the ongoing collapse of the Pan-Arabist movement which dominated the Middle East during the second half of the 20th Century and the battle between democracy and totalitarian Islamofascism over which will rise up next.
The first two sections lead perfectly into the third and most important part of the book: the section on totalitarianism. Arendt shows how Nazism and Bolshevism were much more similar in their goals, practices, ideologies, and enemies than many people often believe or want to admit. They were both mass movements that sprang from cultures that had largely dismissed any objective truths. (Arendt: "The ideal subject of totalitarianism is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.") Both movements sought power for the sake of power, were rigidly ideological, made widespread use of terror, sought not only to punish and kill their enemies (as many brutal governments before them had done) but to dehumanize them and erase any trace of their existence from the memories of the governments' other subjects, a phenomenon introduced to the world by these 20th Century totalitarian governments.
Many people have said in the decades since the Holocaust and the Soviet Gulag that the world should never let these atrocities happen again. But the sad irony is that many of these same people then promote a materialist, existentialist worldview that are the breeding grounds for the same radical totalitarian governments that ultimately carry out these atrocities. Arendt recognized this problem: "...We actually have nothing to fall back on in order to understand a phenomenon that nevertheless confronts us with its overpowering reality and breaks down all standards we know. There is only one thing that seems to be discernible: we may say that radical evil has emerged in connection with a system in which all men have become equally superfluous. The manipulators of this system believe in their own superfluousness as much as in that of all others, and the totalitarian murderers are all the more dangerous because they do not care if they themselves are alive or dead, if they ever lived or never were born... 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."
So where do we go from here? "Never again?" I'd love to think so, but I'm not betting on it. I don't think Hannah Arendt would either.
The first section of the book deals with antisemitism which Miss Arendt argues was a cornerstone of later totalitarianism. She argues that the gradual development of mass culture and mass politics resulted in targeting and scapegoating any target minority such as Jews. She explains that antisemitism was a gradual political movement that exploded in the late 19th and especially in the 20th century. A different thesis could have been presented, but thus far this is the best one this reviewer has read.
Part two of the book explains how imperialism and racism merged especailly during the Age of Nationalism. Religious discord was replaced by sociological and political theories that not only extolled nation but also race and blood. This section deals with these two concepts both in Western Europe and Eastern Europe. One must remember that persecution of Jews was particulary lethal in Eastern Europe between World War I and World War II and espeically during The Second World War.
Part three of the book is the best section of THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM. If readers have difficutly with sections one and two of this book, they owe it to themselves to at least read section three.
Miss Arendt makes a frightening assessment that the liquidation (mass murder of people of race or class) was not so much personal vendetta as these mass murders were bureaucratic operations that were done as a matter of political policy and "normal" bureaucratic operations. She warns readers that totalitarian leaders changed enemies almost weekly. In other words, those who were innocent one time were "enemies of the state or people" later. In other words, totalitarian leaders never never exhausted their enemies' lists and kept the masses alert for supposed enemies regardless of the rapid changes in those designated for mass murder. One quote that should alert thoughtful readers is, "The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any." The serious implication is that totalitarian leaders suspect that thoughtlessness is a virtue which benefits the leaders of the mass political movements. The fact is that once innocent people were arrested, they were "non-persons" whose memories were altered and then forgotten.
This book is a serious warning to anyone who takes pride in individual liberties and appreciates individual achievement regardless of their religious convictions or ancestry. Miss Arendt is clear that totalitarian leaders do not recognize talent except as talented individuals may threaten their arrogant self importance.
Readers would do well to also read Orwell's 1984 and Hoffer's THE TRUE BELIEVER to have a better grasp of THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM. This reviewer highly recommends this book with the reservation that this book is not "light reading."
I think it's important for citizens of any society to read this book. From a purely historical perspective, it takes to task the vague, reductive explanations school children and college undergrads are told in order to explain this period of history. Perhaps I'm particularly sensitive to this aspect of Arendt's thought because I'm an American who has been through the U.S. education system. We all hear the same story about the holocaust, such as the claim that it was the extension of European antisemitism, or that the Nazis persecuted the Jews because they needed a "scapegoat" for Germany's problems. Some leftists in the post-war period tried to argue that the holocaust was the inevitable result of capitalist social relations. For Arendt, these explanations entirely miss the true lessons we should carry away from 20th-century totalitarianism. These explanations miss the difference between mere authoritarianism and full-on totalitarianism (while also missing the nature of their connection). It misses the specific choices and non-inevitable mistakes that Europeans made which allowed Stalinism to overtake Leninism and Nazism to overtake parliamentary democracy. At the same time, it ignores the complex socio-economic trends that laid the groundwork which allowed for these choices to be made in the first place.
On a more philosophical level, Arendt is convinced that Western political thought consistently misses one of the most ethically significant aspects of political life: The actual act of being a political citizen. Western philosophy traditionally defines the problems of politics as the problems of political theory. Politics is improved through a succession of better systems, and the problems these systems face stem from either errors in their design or the imperfections of reality. Arendt argues that conservatives, Marxists, and liberals miss the defining feature of the human being as a political animal, which is the human being's ability to see their fellow man as equals, and to live out their egalitarian ideals in their public lives. When assessing both her philosophical and historical arguments, I found it handy to keep this passage in mind:
"Comprehension, however, does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented from precedents, or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generalities that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer felt. It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden that events have placed upon us- neither denying their existence nor submitting meekly to their weight as though everything that in fact happened could not have been otherwise. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality- whatever it may be or might have been" - page 7, preface.
The first half of the book is concerned with the history leading up to the onslaught of totalitarianism. Arendt sees the Second Empire as a major watershed moment, when the ideals of the French Revolution began to decay and a hard-nosed materialism began to seep into the European consciousness. She blames capitalist social atomism for this decay, and argues that Hobbesian liberalism is always destined to descend into nihilism, but that capitalism is what pushes liberalism towards embracing the belief that power defines all human wanting.
Arendt's history of antisemitism is probably the section that will challenge the reader's perception of history the most. Arendt argues that the folk antisemitism of old Europe is actually a different phenomenon from the antisemitism behind the holocaust. "Old" antisemitism was violent prejudice. Meanwhile, the antisemitism of the Nazis was part of a program that completely sought to overtake and control every aspect of modern society. The Nazis didn't want to just lash out at Jews- they wanted to destroy Jewishness, and identified most of European culture as tainted by Jewishness. Old antisemitism was reinforced by the associations between Jewish financiers and the aristocracy. The populace assumed that powerful Jewish individuals were in cahoots with the aristocrats they periodically agitated against, and aristocrats could periodically blame Jews for the social problems caused by their own governments due to their association with nearly every aristocratic regime. In reality, Jews were largely apolitical, and generally kept their distance from gentile society. According to Arendt's history, this situation began to change, and European Jewery, for a period of time, had the chance to join in with the social movements of the Western Enlightenment, but failed to do so, instead opting for a status as inter-national locutors who stayed aloof of the nations they found themselves in. Once this change set in, a new ideology of antisemitism began to form within the ranks of the aristocracy, particularly in Austria. The Jesuits also started to become rabidly antisemitic, something I was shocked to learn. The defining development which created the ideology of antisemitism that drove the holocaust occurred in 20th-century France. The Catholic Church in France identified the cultural visibility of modern Jews with secular modernity, and in many cases, publically called for the extermination of all Jews in France. Arendt explains the way in which the Dreyfus Affair served as a lit fuse for the antisemitic ideologies of the Catholic Church and the French military, and that this was the first time in modern Europe where a political faction used a "mob" to its political ends. There had been plenty of popular insurrections before in France, but Arendt differentiates "the mob" from the citizenry by the vagueness of its purpose and the general sense within mobs that violence is the only true reality of politics.
Arendt delves more into the socio-economic aspects of the 19th-20th century political experience with her analysis of imperialism. She endorses Rosa Luxemburg's Marxian interpretation of imperialism as an extension of capitalism, and argues that capitalism requires the constant political expansion of the state. With the imperialist stage of capitalism, societies that ranked as the freest in history maintained some of the most barbaric governmental practices in history. This is because capitalism brings out the most selfish instincts in human beings, but liberal freedoms require moral idealism in order to flourish. In order to solve this contradiction, European powers export their worst practices to other continents while trying to foster a moral society at hime. The problem, as Arendt argues, is that colonialism's moral nihilism eventually comes back home. Militaries developed barbaric practices in their colonies which made their way into the political culture of Europe, and the treatment of citizens as mere tools, as seen in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, reflect the economic realities of European colonies.
The second half of "Origins" is mainly dedicated to the analysis of totalitarianism itself. The most important of Arendt's arguments is that authoritarianism is not identical to totalitarianism. Although authoritarian regimes are repugnant in their own right, authoritarian regimes seek to monopolize the military and the operation of public political power. Totalitarianism, as the word would suggest is far more "total." In totalitarianism, all institutions whether legal, cultural, or economic absolutely must be controlled by the arbitrary power of a single, small elite. Not only must these institutions operate according to the leader's will, but the institutions must constantly promote fear of the leader's power, and instill the understanding that peoples' very thoughts are criminal in the eyes of the leader. Authoritarian regimes oppress people because they want results. Totalitarian regimes oppress people because they want to mutilate their very sense of being.
Perhaps the most convincing pieces of evidence that Arendt proposes for this claim is the natures of Hitler's concentration camps and Stalin's labor camps. The Nazis carried out the holocaust at the expense of the war effort itself. Stalin's camps had no practical use, and his regime preferred to allow as many prisoners to die as possible. The reason for this commonality was clear: Both dictators cared far more about their ability to kill, torture, and terrorize than any possible political end these tactics could achieve. Hitler's killing was not going to stop with the Jews. The Nazis also planned to eliminate Slavs, many Western Europeans, and even a substantial portion of the German population. Stalin was constantly inventing new enemy classes to purge, and felt no need to provide a meaningful justification with each sudden twist and turn in his terrorist policies. In Arendt's view, there is only one sensical explanation of this constant, insane slaughter: The Nazis and Stalinists actually desired to keep their societies in a violent state. They desired the moral nihilism, reverence for violence, and intellectual deadness that such a state of affairs causes.
The final chapter concludes with a basic presentation of a positive political philosophy that could counter-act the roots of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism doesn't just obliterate the individual. It also obliterates any sense of the common good. Totalitarianism isn't the overgrowth of the state, it is the abolition of the state's integrity in favor of an arbitrary leader. It doesn't represent "the dark side" of human nature, it represents the mutilation of human nature. Arendt warns that although totalitarian formations had ebbed in her time, that plenty of regimes still possessed elements of totalitarianism, and that the conditions for the creation of totalitarianism could return in the future. She proposes that intellectuals need to overcome their reverence for abstract theoretical correctness and capitalist lifestyles and engage in politics as active, morally beholden citizens. "Origins" does not provide suggestions beyond that, but I doubt that it could have. The political attitude Arendt endorses requires that citizens believe in a common good, by which they establish rational discourse and egalitarian political lives. At the same time, Arendt rejects the idea that there is an eternal human nature, or a permanent solution to humanity's political problems waiting to be discovered. Rationality, ironically, becomes irrational when it is deployed with complete and total political power. This is where her education in Heidegger's philosophy becomes most evident. She holds that reason belongs to human beings, and can only come to fruition within human beings. It does not descend to us from on high, and any attempt to surrender our autonomous capacity for reason to a higher authority completely misses the essence of reason itself. When we surrender our ownership of our reason, and the communal moral responsibilities that stem from it, we put ourselves in a cultural position that's susceptible to seduction by hateful violence.