Read Los orígenes del totalitarismo by Hannah Arendt Guillermo Solana Online


Fue escrito por el convencimiento de que seria posible descubrir los mecanismos ocultos mediante los cuales todos los elementos tradicionales de nuestro mundo politico y espiritual se disolvieron en un conglomerado donde todo parece haber perdido su valor especifico y tornadose irreconocible para la comprension humana, inutil para los fines humanos. Uno de ellos, que se prFue escrito por el convencimiento de que seria posible descubrir los mecanismos ocultos mediante los cuales todos los elementos tradicionales de nuestro mundo politico y espiritual se disolvieron en un conglomerado donde todo parece haber perdido su valor especifico y tornadose irreconocible para la comprension humana, inutil para los fines humanos. Uno de ellos, que se presentaba como pequeno y carente de importancia politicamente, el antisemitismo, llego a convertirse en el agente catalizador del movimiento nazi y, a traves de el, de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y las genocidas B+camaras de la muerteB; . Otro, la grotesca disparidad entre causa y efecto que introdujo la epoca del imperialismo, cuando las condiciones economicas determinaron en unas pocas decadas una profunda transformacion de las condiciones politicas en todo el mundo. Un actual neototalitarismo amenaza con nuevas destrucciones y ataques a la Humanidad. Hannah Arendt llega a sus conclusiones despues de examinar la transformacion de las clases en masas, el papel de la propaganda en relacion con el mundo no totalitario y la utilizacion del terror como verdadera esencia del totalitarismo en cuanto sistema de gobierno. En su capitulo final analiza la naturaleza del aislamiento y la soledad como condiciones necesarias para una dominacion total. Esta edicion anade a la primera, que logro consideracion de verdadero clasico en el tema, las revisiones y ampliaciones de la B+nueva edicionB; de 1966 y los prefacios a las de Harvest de 1968....

Title : Los orígenes del totalitarismo
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ISBN : 9788420647715
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 695 Pages
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Los orígenes del totalitarismo Reviews

  • Kaelan (Κάϊλαν)
    2019-02-10 16:41

    ***** Some Tips For The Reader To Be *****Having just finished this monster of a book in just under three months (not sure if any book has taken me so long to finish, perhaps Infinite Jest might surpass?), I can safely say that I feel like I've just gone through ninety days of mental kick boxing with Arendt. As such, I've had plenty of time to conduct a criticism in my head that I feel adds to the already crammed Goodreads review page on here. It takes the form of three bits of advise, as I truly believe ALL should read this book, but many may need some guidance from a fellow average joe (and not a History Major) who's reached the finish line. It goes as follows:1.) Style. Unless you have experience in understanding the language of Political Science (or any complex subject), or you are very well read with in-depth politics, or you just so happen to be able to process complex ideas and writings from paper to brain in perfect unity, then you may find that the first 100 pages of this book will hit you like a clean round-house kick to the head. I found this text HARD to process (If you don't believe me, check the reader Q&A), and it's definitely the first non-fiction that I've really had to churn through. It took a good month of reading for me to fully get into gear with Arendt's writing style and what makes it so hard (at least for me) leads to my second point.2.) What Arendt is setting out to inform the reader of.It was only after having a minor freak out finishing part II of this book (Imperialism) in a computer room late at night that I fully grasped what Arendt was attempting to convey to readers when forming this book. This book doesn't read as a series of historical events told in a traditionally chronological order, neither does it read as a study of the inner workings of the leaders / political body of said movements. Instead, The Origins of Totalitarianism reads like a slow motion dread-fest that builds in momentum as the reader learns about the collective thoughts of the population at the time. Arendt goes from informing us about the various peoples of pre-WWII Europe and the hatred pumped into their consciousness which found a voice in anti-Semitism; Racism; the eventual Pan-Movements, and finally exposing how Imperialism nurtured it all. All as the pre-requisites for what gave birth to the Nightmare Ideologies of Hitler and Stalin. So what makes it different in its explanation of these events? Simply put, Arendt attempts to show the reader the mindset of western society at the time. Not of an individual, but of the subconscious, unquestioning attitude toward the world the elite and in-power peoples of Europe (such as Britain and Germany) held, and how they ended up seeing reality in this warped, divorced way. This is what makes for a difficult read. Arendt attempted to create a book that weaves human thought together when we are assembled together en-masse (no easy feat), and display the inner workings of those who inhabited an Imperialistic world full of expansion and domination. I won't attempt to go into how she manages to actually make sense of the deliberately illogical, irrational and insane endgame society that came next (Hint: it begins with a T). But what follows is the bone chilling chronicling of how men became convinced they were servants to the never-changing, always forward moving cogs of history (as viewed through the eyes of imperialists). Everything is laid bare as the reader is guided, and shown how the foundations of a society based on terror as it's core function - and an enemy always in need of extermination - was born.3. How the reader should tackle the book . Attack this book pro-actively. I had a pen on me at all times, and I constantly marked passages that stood out and made notes in case I returned (I'm sure I will). Most importantly, be humble when reading this book and realise this is one of those texts that requires time and thought to read. Millions died in ways that, as Arendt would say: "Saw the impossible made possible", thanks to this sickening ideology that made history explainable to those who couldn't understand their misery in one giant consumable pill labelled 'RACE' (in the case of Nazi Germany), and - in a terrifying twist of Marx's philosophy - 'CLASS' (in the case of Stalin's Russia) for the masses to swallow. It is the least we can do to mentally arm ourselves against this carcass of a thought-trail, and arm those around us also.There's a reason I have this shelved under Horror, and when we're told that reading can change one's brain structure then I feel this book did exactly that. I won't see things in quite the same way.I feel I can sum this subject up in one final paragraph. Humans, being the organically grown creatures of mother earth that we are, are not separate from the laws of nature that all other creatures must obey. When we don't nourish our bodies physically; we catch a flu, or grow fat and weak from lack of exercise. When we don't nourish our minds properly, or keep our mental health in check; we become melancholy, or depressed. The exact same can be said of societies (for what are societies if not humans expressing their desires and aims into a physical collective) I believe. Totalitarianism is a modern societal disease. A sickness that appears from a collective that has had it's heart ripped out and its people left with no future prospect. A society that has failed to nourish itself with all the needs and basic requirements for humans to flourish will decay. It's the mutation of decayed Imperialism and modern Empire that gives birth to Death Camps and Gulags which, ultimately, if allowed to continue, would have seen the movement cannibalise it's population and destroy itself (see 'The German Health Bill' for what Hitler had planned for those who were ill or had a disability). I believe previous societies have had their own version of this mutation when they have collapsed, but due to the manner of the modern world, nothing could have reflected a society's fall as horrifically as Totalitarianism, and no-one seems to have chronicalled it better than Hannah Arendt.

  • Bam
    2019-02-11 15:25

    "Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life."Some have said this should be required reading to prepare ourselves to face the changing political climate armed with information, as we watch again the rise of nationalism, the rise of antisemitism, the rise to power of what could be a new demagogue: 'a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason.' We have every reason to be greatly worried. On February 17, 2017, Donald Trump called the news media "the enemy of the American people" in a tweet. If that doesn't scare you, nothing will.This book could be said to be quite dated, having been first published in 1951, shortly after the end of WWII, and during the midst of Stalin's Soviet regime. This particular edition was updated in 1966, with a long introduction by the author detailing the many changes in the world at that time. But of course so much more has happened since then: the breakup of the Soviet Union and rise to power of Putin in Russia, to name just two.So read this book for information on totalitarianism, its origins and its elements, and not so much for an up-to-date history lesson. Once again, as I frequently do with heavy material, I'm planning to read this in small doses, perhaps a chapter a day, to try to digest the information. Part One: Antisemitism with chapters entitled: An Outrage to Common Sense; The Jews, the Nation-State and the Birth of Antisemitism; and The Dreyfus Affair. Part Two: Imperialism with chapters entitled: The Political Emancipation of the Bourgeoisie; Race-thinking Before Racism; Race and Bureaucracy; Continental Imperialism: The Pan-Movements; and the Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man.Interesting quote: "'Expansion is everything,' said Cecil Rhodes, and fell into despair, for every night he saw overhead 'these stars...these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could.'" "Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came up against national limitations to its economic expansion."Part Three: Totalitarianism with chapters entitled A Classless Society; The Totalitarian Movement; and Totalitarianism in Power.This section was the reason I wanted to read this book in the first place, to understand what circumstances allow the rise of totalitarianism. To understand the fascination exercised by Hitler:"Society is always prone to accept a person offhand for what he pretends to be, so that a crackpot posing as a genius always has a certain chance of being believed. In modern society, with its characteristic lack of discerning judgment, this tendency is strengthened, so that someone who not only holds opinions but also presents them in a tone of unshakable conviction will not so easily forfeit his prestige, no matter how many times he has been demonstrably wrong.""...their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it."Arendt wrote this book just a few short years after WWII had ended. People were still in shock and there was a lot of disbelief surrounding what had gone on in the concentration camps: "Nazis have always known that men determined to commit crimes will find it expedient to organize them on the vastest, most improbable scale. Not only because this renders all punishments provided by the legal system inadequate and absurd; but because the very immensity of the crimes guarantees that the murderers who proclaim their innocence with all manner of lies will be more readily believed than the victims who tell the truth." Incredible!!"Concentration camps can very aptly be divided into three types corresponding to three basic Western conceptions of life after death:"Hades: relatively mild forms of camps for getting undesirable elements out of the way--the forerunner of the Displaced Persons camps established after the war.Purgatory: chaotic forced labor camps such as utilized by the Soviets.Hell: perfected by the Nazis and organized for the greatest possible torment. "All three types have one thing in common: the human masses sealed off in them are treated as if they no longer existed, as if what happened to them were no longer of any interest to anybody, as if they were already dead and some evil spirit gone mad were amusing himself by stopping them for a while between life and death before admitting them to eternal death." Chilling, isn't it? I would give this book 2 stars for ease of reading and 5 stars for importance. Hannah Arendt was obviously a brilliant scholar and her book is well worth the time it takes to read through all the historical background she provides. I may not have retained much but the details were endlessly fascinating. I would say that part three on totalitarianism could be read alone if one just wants more information on that.

  • Neal Romanek
    2019-02-06 13:27

    I'd always assumed totalitarianism and dictatorship were the same thing. But nope. I learned more about modern politics and power reading this masterpiece by Hannah Arendt than in the past 20 years of reading and studying. I was shocked to find that certain baffling features of contemporary political movements suddenly make perfect, terrifying sense when viewed from a totalitarian perspective. Some fun things I learned about totalitarian movements:-Totalitarian movements deny objective reality and deliberately enclose themselves and their populations in a self-manufactured world of ever-changing fictions.-Totalitarian movements are not pro-national movements. A totalitarian movement's goal is ultimately to destroy the nation it inhabits. Similarly, totalitarianism doesn't use the law to control its population. (I'd always thought totalitarianism meant more and harsher laws) Totalitarian movements abandon all law and strive toward utter lawlessness. -In totalitarian movements, the power of the military becomes second to the power of intelligence agencies.-Totalitarian movements always aspire to global dominationGood fun!

  • Michael
    2019-01-25 12:40

    Profound insight into totalitarian movements--not just how they happen but why, getting at the psychology behind their appeal and the social and psychological conditions that allow them to grow. The writing is clear-eyed, penetrating, and deeply unsettling.

  • Ahmed M. Gamil
    2019-02-07 15:40

    لا أدري لماذا يصيبني الارتباك دائماً عندما أقرأُ مثل هذه الأعمال.. لا أدري دائماً كيف أبدأ كتابة مراجعة لكتاب بمثل هذا الحجم وتلك الكثافة والتركيز.أعتقدُ أنّ هذا ملازمٌ لقراءة أعمال من هم مثل "حنّة أرندت".. يُلقى بعقلك الضعيف وسط دوّامةٍ من الأفكار فلا تملك إلا أن تصاب بالدهشة وبلادة الفعل والقدرة على الكتابة إثر الصدمة الناجمة عن هاته العوالم الفكريّة العاصفة.الكتاب، عكس ما كنت أعتقد، لا يتناول الاستبداد العادي الذي نعايشه بأوطاننا والذي كنت أعتقد أنّي بقراءتي لهذا الكتاب سأجد تحليلاً دقيقاً لآليّات عمله وتجليّات وجوده.. الكتاب يتناول الصورة الأقصى والأقسى لحلول السلطة حلولاً كاملاً، لا فحسب، من حيثُ كونها سلطة، على مقدّرات الأوطان، بل وجوداً كلّياً شاملاً على أصغر دقائق الحياة المعاشة للأفراد المنزوين تحت لواءها.عندما شرعتُ وأوغلتُ أكثر في صفحات هذا الكتاب أدركتُ أنّنا نقبع تحت ديكتاتوريّات هزليّة وهشّة لا تملك من أمرها شيئاً ولا تحافظ على وجودها بذاتها ولا تملُك أيديولوجيّة متماسكة تجعلها بمثل القوّة التي جعلت الشموليّات بهذه القوة والتكامل ما يجعلني أتساءل بكلّ صدقٍ: أبائسون نحنُ لهذه الدرجة؟! .. لكن دعونا ننصرف عن جلدِ الذاتِ الآن إلى موضوع الكتاب.من المعلوم أنّ السلطة، من حيث كونها سلطة، تحدّ من حرّية الأفراد وذلك كونها وسيلة من وسائل السيطرة على الجموع من أجل الحصول على نظام ما يمكن من خلاله إيجاد والحفاظ على صيغ المعيشة التي تم الاتفاق عليها مسبقاً إمّا بالاتفاق أو بالتجربة والخطأ.. لكن ما يصدمك هو اللاتوقّف في السعي من أجل السيطرة الشاملة لا بُغية الحماية كونها وسيلة بل من أجل القضاء تماماً على الحرّية كمظهر بشري فطري طبيعي بل والقضاء أيضاً على مظاهر العفوية الإنسانيّة، حيثُ لا يُسمح تحت ظلّ الدولة الشموليّة بالاختلاف ولا التميّز ولا الحركة خارج إطار الأيديولوجيّة الحاكمة والحركة الكبرى.وكما أشرنا آنفاً، يعاد صياغة المجتمع الخاضع للسلطة الشمولية صياغةً مختلفةً بُغية تحويل أفراده إلى فردٍ واحدٍ كبير مكوّن منهم.. يمكن بسهولةٍ بعد ذلك وحسبما تقتضي الحاجة استبدال أجزاء منه بأجزاء أخرى بسهولةٍ ويُسرٍ.. يمكن فيه إعداد الذوات الفرديّة إعداداً تامّاً لتجعلها متقبّلة تماماً لأنّ تقوم بدور الضحية كما تقوم بدور الجلّاد بصورةٍ مرعبة تُخرج البشر عن كونهم بشراً.يتواجد النظام الشمولي في نظام الحزب الأوحد، وذلك انعكاس وتجلٍّ لحالة اللاتمايز وقتل الاختلافات بين الأفراد كونهم، كما أشرنا، فرد واحد متألف من أفراد، لأنّ الأحزاب إنما توجد في النظام السياسي للتعبير عن المصالح المختلفة للفئات المؤلّفة للمجتمع، ولمّا كانت هناك مصلحة واحدة فقط ووحيدة في الدولة الشمولية، ولا يجوز أن تتواجد مصلحة غيرها، كان وجود حزب واحد أو حركة واحدة معبّراً عن هذا الاتّجاه.تعتمد الأنظمة الشموليّة (النازيّة والستالينية كمثالين أكثر اكتمالاً) على أسلوبين لفرض التغيير على المستوى الذرّي الفردي. أولهما هو أن تفرضُ تلك الأنظمةُ عزلةً مزدوجةً، من الداخل إلى الخارج والعكس، لأنّها تعمل دوماً على إعادة تغيير الواقع الموضوعي وما يتوافق مع رؤيتها الذاتيّة له.. ولما كان الأمر كذلك كانت الحاجة إلى العزلة ضروريّة للغاية كونها أولى خطوات "حماية" الأفراد من الخارج الغير شمولي.. وثانيهما هو إعادة التأهيل المستمرّة والتلقين الأيديولوجي للنخب.ما نلاحظه هو ليس فقط وجود عزلة بين المجتمع التوتاليتاري وبين غيره من المجتمعات بل الأقسى من هذا هو وجود عزلة ما بين أفراد ذلك المجتمع وبعضه ما يجعل هناك دائماً ميل للريبة والشكّ الدائم بين الأفراد وبعضهم البعض، حيثُ كلّ شخص هو عميلٌ سرّيّ، فربّما يتم الإبلاغ عن شخص ما إذا ما اشتبه بما يقوله أو يفعله، لأنّ كلّ كلمةٍ ملتبسة هي عرضة للتأويل، والذي حين يتمّ القبض عليه والزجّ به إلى المعتقلات أو معسكرات العمل لا يُكتفى فحسب بإخفاءه وجعله على هامش الحياة والموت كذلك، بل يتمّ العمل على إظهار أنّ هذا الشخص لم يوجد أصلاً.. لا يتم محوْ الشخص فحسب بل يتمّ أيضاً محوْ ماضيه.. قد نجدُ هذا مرعباً وشديد الغرابة غير أنّ هذا التعجّب يذهب بعيداً عندما نعلم أنّ علماء النفس الروس كانوا يعملون على تطوير أساليب يتم بها محو شخص ما من ذاكرة معارفه.ولا يتوقّف الأمر عن هذا الحدّ بل إنّ هناك شعور داخلي بالعزلة (لا الوحدة) عن الذات المتسائلة نفسها مع وأدها بمحاولات إعادة تعريف الواقع بالترويج الدائم من قبل الحركة الشموليّة بأنّ الأمور ليست على ما تبدو عليه وأنّ هناك حاسّة ما سادسة ينبغي أنْ تعْمل لرؤية ما هو خلف المرئي والمسموع والملموس.ولمّا كان مسعى النظام الشمولي هو السلطة ولا شيء غير السلطة، ولمّا كانت السلطة في طبيعتها هي تمثيل لإرادة مجموع الأفراد المحكومين بشكلٍ ما، كان لزاماً أن يتمّ تفتيت ذلك المجموع بفرض تلك العزلة التي تحدّثنا عنها آنفاً لتنعدم القدرة على الفعل من قبل الأفراد. إذ ليس للمعزولين أيّ سلطة.لا يكتفي فحسب النظام الشمولي بأنصاره المتحمّسين المقتنعين بأفكاره قدر ما يهتم بالفرد العادي وإفقاده القدرة على التمييز بين ما هو واقعي موضوعي وبين ما هو مزيّف أو واقعي ذاتي من جهة الحركة الشموليّة، وهنا نرى أنّ الأيديولوجيّات الشموليّة تُدركُ تماماً عجزها عن تغيير ذلك الواقع وقهر العالم الخارجي بأكمله لفرض واقعها هي على العالم لذا تلجأُ دوماً إلى تغيير الطبيعة البشرية الكامنة في الأفراد الخاضعين لحكمها.بقي أنْ نشير إلى أنّ شخصية القائد في النظام الشمولي لا يأتيها الباطل من بيْن يديها ولا من خلفها.. يجبُ أن يظلّ القائد الأعلى على صوابٍ دائماً، ولا يُكتفى بهذا فحسب بل لا يُسمح نهائياً بانتقاد أي شخص ينتمي إلى أيّ منصبٍ حيثُ أنّ هذا الشخص وجوده معبّر ودليل عن وجود القائد نفسه، بينما لا نجدُ هذا في كثيرٍ من الأنظمة الاستبداديّة العاديّة حيث يجعل الديكتاتور مسافة بينه وبين رجاله يمكنه من خلالها التضحية بهم إذا ما ألحّت الظروف وكثُر الضغط واشتدّ.مع وجود طغيان تكنولوجي رهيب وامتلاك الحكومات الآن قدرة رهيبة على استخراج أدق التفاصيل وثنايا المعيشة للأفراد والقدرة، وبكل سهولة، على رسم شجرة العلاقات ما بين الأفراد المحكومين وبعضهم البعض، ما مثّل أحد أحلام الدولة الشموليّة في امتلاك تلك المعرفة الشاملة وحصار الفرد، بقي لنا أن نتساءل: ما مدى احتمالية ظهور شموليّات أخرى في هذا القرن (عدا شموليّة كوريا الشماليّة البائسة).. وما مدى خطورة ظهورها الآن في تلك الفترة التكنولوجيّة المتميّزة التي تتنافس فيها مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي وتبادل المنتجات وشراءها على تحصيل أكبر قدر من المعلومات الشخصية عن الأفراد؟.. الأمر مرعب.. مرعب للغاية.تحيّاتي.

  • أحمد أبازيد Ahmad Abazed
    2019-02-16 17:41

    من أهم الكتب التي قرأتها هذا العام، ولعله أكثر الكتب التي أطلت في تأملها والاقتباس منها ومراجعتها، ربما بحكم اعتقادي براهنية الظاهرة أو إرهاصاتها رغم عدم تحققها كدولة في تاريخنا (العربي الإسلامي) القديم أو الحديث، واستهلمت من الكتاب مقالي "أيديولوجيا الوهم: النزعة المؤامراتية وسردياتها"، كما أضاء لي جوانب عديدة لتفسير ظاهرة داعش (وبعض من غيرها)، سايكولوجيّاً وسوسيولوجيّاً وحركيّاً.وحنه تبقى مثالاً نادراً وجميلاً حقّاً يتحدّى الزعم الذكوري –الواقعي غالباً- بلا إبداعية النساء، وهي مناسبة للتخلي المؤقت عن النرجسية المعرفية الذكورية، مؤقتاً فقط.

  • Greg Brozeit
    2019-02-11 12:34

    Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting begins by recounting “a crucial moment in Czech history” when Klement Gottwald emerged on a balcony in Prague to announce the birth of the Communist Czechoslovakia. The image of him and Clementis, who took off his fur hat and placed it on Gottwald’s cold head, became as iconic for Czechs as the flag-raising in Iwo Jima has become for Americans. “Four years later,” however, “Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately airbrushed him out of history and, obviously, out of all the photographs as well. Ever since Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone. Where Clementis once stood, there is only a bare palace wall. All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.”When I first read The Origins of Totalitarianism 33 years ago, that scene had a strong hold on me (I later used the passage for a final exam essay question when I taught high school government). Yuri Andropov had just replaced Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union, despots like Erich Honecker and Nicolae Ceauşesu ruled their subjects with impunity, and in Poland Solidarność began an unstoppable revolution. The Cold War was a stark reality; people throughout the world feared the prospect of nuclear annihilation. As a child and young adult who traveled a great deal to East Germany in the 70s and early 80s, it seemed important to neglect my studies and delve into this book because it might help me to understand what I experienced on both sides of the Iron Curtain.Yet rather than becoming an interesting historical intellectual exercise, Arendt’s analysis is once again pertinent in, of all places, the United States in the 21st century, even though I don’t think the U.S. will become a totalitarian dictatorship, even if the possible election of the 2016 Republican nominee for president causes many to think it might. It is more important to understand, as Arendt concludes in her discussion of totalitarianism in power that “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.” Even though Arendt published her book in 1951 and revised it in the mid-60s, it is still relevant. These “strong temptations” are, according to Arendt, built on a foundation of human isolation—which is distinct from loneliness and solitude. Isolation can be can be experienced by people to create a mob, as opposed to the organic concept of “the people.” As Arendt explains with excruciating detail, anti-Semitism and imperialism were fundamental to fertilize the soil for the 20th century totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But no such system, including Mao’s China and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, can completely be explained by these two ideas alone. Arendt provides elastic examples to understand how totalitarian tendencies could be turned into political tactics. This includes use of legends, “which were needed precisely because history itself would hold man responsible for deeds he had not done and for consequences he had not foreseen.” Arendt sees similarities in tribal nationalism and the seemingly contradictory pan-movements that crossed national boundaries, both of which were born from “tremendous arrogance, inherent in its self-concentration, which dares to measure a people, its past and present, by a yardstick of exalted inner qualities and inevitable rejects it visible existence, tradition, institutions, and culture.” Each leads to a historical ignorance which can be fabricated and manipulated and, as the intellectual father of modern fascism, Joseph de Maistre, articulated, a faith in irrationality in human affairs. Taken together, these concepts are “ways of escaping…common responsibility,” which is essential to lull isolated people into thinking and believing that they are part of a larger authentic culture or movement.A mob of isolated individuals’ group identity is built on many fictions. They are more likely to accept rule by arbitrary decree because accepting “the carefully organized ignorance of specific circumstances which only an expert can know it detail” removes them from responsibility. Moreover, “What convinces” them “are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably a part” and they would rather live in “a lying world of consistency.” This is much easier than the hard work of civic education and engagement. It is harder to explain to these individuals, as Arendt says more forcefully, “We are not born equal; we become equal as members of a group on the strength of our decision to guarantee ourselves mutual rights.”The 2016 Republican convention, especially when viewed through the propagandistic lens of Fox News (our friends outside of the U.S. really would have a hard time understanding how this can exist and thrive in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”), provided a Petri dish-like environment to examine how leaders with totalitarian tendencies control their “fellow-travelers.” Compare some of her observations with what we witnessed in Cleveland; how the members of the movement with “a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism” are “expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders and the central unchanging ideological fiction of the movement.” Or how the fellow-travelers “had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything or nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true” and “how its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd.”It is easy to dismiss linkages of current politics to Nazism and Stalinism because of their extreme experience with eliminating “objective enemies” through terror and death camps. The current brand of American xenophobia won’t go that far—at least not in public. It has, unfortunately, in Syria and Iraq. Some of these contemporary ideas share a fantasy of labeling some “whose past justifies suspicion” and are “‘carrier[s] of tendencies’ like the carrier[s] of a disease” and, in order for the system to function, it “constantly meets with new obstacles that have to be eliminated.” Elimination doesn’t necessarily mean death; it also can be restriction, confinement, or deportation. It can include “torture” which “in this context is only the desperate and eternally futile attempt to achieve what cannot be achieved.” And it breeds “mutual suspicion” that “permeates all social relationships” and “provocation…becomes a method of dealing with…neighbor[s]” in “which everybody, willing or unwilling, is forced to follow.” Sounds a lot like Trumpism to me.On the other hand, the blind acceptance by the majority at the 2016 Democratic convention of the empty, potentially dangerous, rhetoric of “American exceptionalism” proves, as Arendt makes clear, that totalitarian tendencies are not a matter of right or left. The idea of “American exceptionalism” embodies her arguments about the role of legend, an almost delusional mysticism, and a perverse redefining of pluralism to make it national rather than global. Those who rightfully deride the course of the Republican Party should never fail to look into the mirror to see their own hypocrisies.Perversely, mass media and the internet have, rather than increase genuine human contact and spread information, exacerbated many of the conditions that nurture totalitarian ideas. It is now easier to find—and accept as valid—information that supports misconceptions and lies. It is easier to find fellow-travelers while still remaining isolated behind a keyboard and screen. Just read any newspaper comments section for proof. And the anonymity that comes with it has the ironic effect of making them feel part of a movement that can deny objective reality and rationalize the worst tendencies of humanity. We are rapidly moving toward a world that Arendt foresaw, but could never have imagined its scope.The Origins of Totalitarianism provides useful intellectual measures and markers to better understand growing movements based on xenophobia, racism, fundamentalism—religious and otherwise— and frustration. The seeming randomness of certain human events, trends, and reactions to them causes isolated individuals of all types to seek comfort and explanations that correspond to their personal Weltanschauung. “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” Sadly, these trends will always be a part of our world. Those who can recognize them are obligated to point them out and be constantly vigilant to explain why simple solutions to complex social and political issues do not exist. We have to keep reminding others and explain why “all that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.” That is the only way to fight demagoguery that manipulates isolated individuals for political gain.

  • Szplug
    2019-01-24 10:22

    Way back when I read this, I recall being somewhat surprised at how few works she actually referenced in this tripartite tome, especially in the latter two sections on Imperialism and Totalitarianism; and, for the first of these, the surprise turned to incredulity when it occurred to me that she appeared to be basing a considerable part of her argument—virtually the entirety regarding the interaction between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, IIRC—upon the most famous fictional work by Joseph Conrad. Arendt is a brilliant woman and a deep thinker, but that struck me as rather suspect. At least, this is what sticks with me in the here and now—it could very well be that I'm doing Arendt a disservice. But, fuck it. When the memory banks are sketchy, I riff away with whatever appears most recognizable upon the faded deposit slips.John Lukacs dismissed this book with contempt, tagging Arendt's writing within as shrilly verbose and her method as unhistorical, and flatly stating that her section on Totalitarianism had initially been crafted solely in regard to the Nazis, but that—with the Cold War hot and suddenly on everybody's mind—she hastily worked in references to the Communist juggernaut in an effort to cash in on the burgeoning interest and score the big bucks. Now, that's just how Lukacs rolls—my remembrance is of finding the final part tough-going but thought-provoking. Arendt is one of those writers who may require more than one passage through in order to gleam the point in toto, so dense with material does the prose prove to be. Sadly, the details have slipped away like the toxically heady aroma of a nigh-liquid butter fart bugled forth in the waning glow of a summer barbecue. At times I'm tempted to dig it out and give it another try—come on, you know what I'm talking about—but I'm unfortunately far from convinced that it would prove to be worth fitting in ahead of so many other potentially brilliant books.

  • Rob
    2019-01-16 15:12

    certainly in the running for the most disappointing book ever. first, it's on all these lists of the greatest books ever, plus it's got a really high rating on goodreads. plus i open it and the first few pages are breathtaking. hannah is one killer sentencecrafter. a vixen of prose. some sentences 50+ words long but you only need to read them once because they are both precise and action-packed. and oh, the promise her intros seem to hold. bold, sweeping strokes that wipe out long-held beliefs and foretell of new paradigms to come. the great human cataclysms of our times will be analysed and the true causes, forces at work through the centuries, laid bare.but the promise is completely unrealised. i read 200 pages closely, then skimmed through 100 more. it turns into an excrutiating brick of mass psychobabble. "jews felt this way, so they acted this way, so others felt this way about them, so this made jews feel this way, so they did this.""imperialists had these intentions, so they tried to do this, but it made people feel this way, so the imperialists changed to this methodology in order to make people feel this way." every group is a monolith which thinks and acts like an archetypal individual. which, ok, is sometimes a necessary simplification in history, but the real killer is her EVIDENCE. time and time and time again, her "evidence" is a quote from another historian, or even a quote from a contemporary NOVEL. IF YOU WANT TO PROVE A THESIS ABOUT HISTORY, YOU HAVE TO PROVE IT WITH HISTORY, NOT BY QUOTING THE CONCLUSIONS OF OTHERS. i came away pretty sure that she didn't have much of a head for figures or economics. almost no numbers at all are quoted as evidence. even if i were convinced of her ideas, if i espoused them to someone who then challenged me to defend them, this book provides almost nothing i could use. but then of course what makes the whole thing even worse is that i don't think she's correct at all.there is one tiny speck of possibility. hannah had obviously read thousands of books and essays and letters on the subject. i suppose it is possible that she assumed her audience would also be like her, so that she only needed to point at her sources, rather than reprise the events and people that are the subjects of history. there are multiple footnotes on most pages and about 1000 items in the bibliography.if you want to learn how the world came to look like it does, don't read this. read Tragedy and Hope, by carroll quigley

  • Gary
    2019-01-26 11:14

    What does it take to create a Hitler or a Stalin? More importantly can it happen in the USA as it has in Putin’s Russia? Arendt is a very intelligent writer. She’s not afraid to assume her readers really want to know and never talks down to the reader. The book was reprinted in the 1960s but mostly reflects her thoughts from 1950. There’s just something about a writer who assumes her readers have read Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’, Kant, Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarian philosophy, and often quotes from Edmund Burke, and all the while assumes the reader understands the context and the connections of what is being discussed.In order to create a totalitarian system the first thing required is to create hate of the other of some kind. She documents the madness of 19th century Europe (and South Africa) and its peculiar blaming of the Jews and the stateless for its ills, the Dreyfus Affair in all of its details and the chaos after the First World War and then the book starts to get into its groove as she starts to consider the special characteristics inherent within Hitler and Stalin the two totalitarians under consideration which resulted from that madness, the first race inspired, the second class inspired.The common ingredients necessary for totalitarianism to take hold were along these lines, create a fear stemming from a difference and use the threat of terror to appeal to baser instincts of the mobs (winning the hearts of at least 48% of the people is just enough to win in an Electoral College, for example). A Hitler quote from the book went something along these lines ‘everything I am I owe to you the people of Germany, and who you are is owed to me’. It would be similar as if somebody said ‘only I can fix the problems that you have and nobody else knows how to do that except for me’. To create totalitarianism, undermine science and knowledge by appealing to dogma instead of reason and create fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) by challenging all narratives contrary to the leader’s whim for that day and act as if they were coming from a fake media or pointing out there are alternative facts. Consistency and coherence are not necessary within their narratives for them to be successful only what the leader has recently said matters, because after you insult your opponent by calling them names (such as ‘Pocahontas’) the mob will cheer you on in order to see blood as if they were sharks swimming in the water between feedings. Keeping people afraid and hateful from any group or person who threatens them in their fevered imaginations and who are not part of their self selected group defined by their ethos. It doesn’t matter if they are to be made afraid of Muslims, Mexicans or immigrants. The most important consideration is that the masses must be irrational in their fear, but have the feeling that something wicked this way comes and only one person can save them from that future (but unknown) travesty.The author will say that totalitarian merges the law into the ethos of the people manipulated by the leader such that to disagree with the law and the hate that proceeds from the created ethos would be tantamount to being anti-patriotic and not part of the spirit of the country as such nor would they be deemed worthy of protection by the rule of justice. The leader, for example, could lead a chant of ‘lock her up’ before any indictment has been made and recommend a death penalty before a trial especially in acts of terror when committed by the bogeyman group of the day in order to instill fear induced by terror of the unknown to come, because fear of terror can never be relaxed since the totalitarian has convinced the mob only he knows how to fix the problem which he has created to be an existential threat within the minds of the mob and the leader but not in reality.I would say, in addition for totalitarianism to win out the people must first stop learning. They must allow their leaders to think for them, and no matter how absurd the assertion is and void of science for totalitarianism to take hold the people must be willing to accept statements such as ‘Climate Change is a Chinese Hoax’ or ‘vaccines cause autism’ as truth because their leaders, and their insular news sources trapped within an epistemic closure tell them such. (Can’t they just read ‘Scientific American’?). Rush Limbaugh routinely tells his listeners that they do not need to read the ‘fake news’ and they can count on him instead. It’s a free country and any one can pick who they want to listen to or what they believe, but I sincerely suggest they be willing to learn from other sources then what their leaders have sanctify with their imprimaturs. Every time I hear a 9/11 truther, or a climate denier, or a vaccine denier, or somebody who ignores the Mueller investigation about Russian influence within American politics because Hillary did something ‘nasty’ and is the real criminal which only makes sense in their fevered imaginations I cringe, because I know they are part of the totalitarian vanguard. Russia is not our friend and they are a threat to democracy. Education and science are the best defense against ignorance based fear and as Kant said, ‘the problem with the ignorant is they do not know they are ignorant’ at least the ignorant can learn. The stupid will always remain stupid. Arendt had an interesting take on the ‘autonomy of chess’. Within a group of people there will be some people who like something for its own sake such as the game of chess just for the sake of chess itself (St. Aquinas makes only God (i.e., the ultimate Good) and the conscience of the individual as causes of themselves). Himmler, when he came to power was not going to allow that. He was not going to allow a farmer to be a farmer just for the sake of farming. He was going to insist that everything had to serve the nation in the end since the nation itself with its totalitarian leader was to serve as the ultimate good for all within the nation. All of his SS guards were never to be SS agents just for their own sake. The good of the nation meant the good of the leader and that was what mattered most in that symbiotic relationship. The capitalist and expansionist highlighted in the first part of the book similarly, the author will say, just wanted to make money or expand for its own sake, its own cause. Leaders of totalitarian states are not necessarily ideologically driven, but often want authoritarian power for its own sake and are using the people only as useful idiots in order to enhance what they think of as their ultimate good.It is vital that we study history. Otherwise we can be doomed to repeat it. This book gives a recursive view of history since it is a look back at a history as seen by a very intelligent writer in 1950 about a history that immediately came before that time period, and the reader gets both a history of the time period and a snapshot of what was believed in 1950. We’ve learned a whole lot more about Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia since this book was first published, but in spite of what we know today that she didn’t know then this book made for an intelligent telling of an interesting period of time. Our understanding of history takes many drafts with rewrites before we think we get it right or at least good enough to think we did, and this book represented one of the best of the early drafts.

  • Tony
    2019-02-04 14:25

    Arendt, Hannah. THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM. (1951). ****. Arendt was a well-known intellectual and teacher of political philosophy, and wrote several key books and papers expressing her views and analysis of, among other things, Nazi Germany. In this book – the seminal work on it’s topic – she created an instant classic and a definitive study of this political movement. The book is divided into three main parts: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. Her thesis, ultimately, is that the Nazi rise to power and its subsequent massacre of the Jews was the result of how Jews were perceived in Europe, beginning in the mid-1800s. Her thesis rests on the facts that Jews were a stateless people, having no country of their own and not belonging to the state in which they dwelt. They served a purpose, early on, of financing the needs of the royalty of the various countries in which they lived prior to the creation of the concept of the state – after which they became superfluous. They then became the object of hatred after that because they had wealth, without power, and that wealth without use. They were stuck between being parvenues and pariahs. She manages to provide an excellent in-depth study of both Dreyfus and Disraeli to support her thesis – looking at both with a critical eye. Although her main focus later in the book is the totalitarian regime that sprang up in Germany, she also covers the same types of regimes that led up to Stalin – although Stalin was not as selective as Hitler in his purges. This is not an easy book to read. You have to pay attention to what the author is really saying and listen closely to her conclusions. Don’t take this one to the beach or on an airplane. Recommended.

  • Dylan Suher
    2019-02-14 11:14

    Her views on Anti-Semitism are mostly what my grandfather would have called "German Jewish thinking" and whenever she writes about America or Africa, it's frankly embarrassing. But when she's talking about European pre-war politics, she's absolutely on point. She has great insight into the basic human impulses at the heart of the great evils of the 20th century, insights which I found useful even when thinking about the Tea Party Movement. I found myself nostalgic (a blessedly rare mode for me) for the days when Arendt was a notable public intellectual: this book is written clearly and mostly free of jargon, but still strongly argued and well researched. Today, by contrast, we have Thomas Friedman. It also helps that she's a remarkable writer. The portions on statelessness, life in the camps and human loneliness are as about as moving as political thought gets.

  • Lucian McMahon
    2019-02-08 16:36

    A truly haunting work. I don't even know what to say to give it justice. You have to read it for yourself. And weep, because Arendt opens up the totalitarian box and out pours all the insanity and absurdity of man with all his inhuman potential.

  • Conor
    2019-02-10 18:30

    So I think it's pretty obvious why I read this, and pretty obvious why I had my first queue for a book older than a few years old: people are freaked, they are nervous, they want answers and our other institutions have utterly failed us, forget preparing us for any of what we should be expecting.Arendt spends a lot of time tracing the origins of anti-Semitism, which seems appropriate except that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of connecting that to the rise of Nazism. Overall this book was a bit too long and a bit too academic to really grip me, but there were eerie parallels to our present situation that would grab my attention:On today's complaisant GOP:The attraction which the totalitarian movements exert on the elite, so long as and wherever they have not seized power, has been perplexing because the patently vulgar and arbitrary, positive doctrines of totalitarianism are more conspicuous to the outsider and mere observer than the general mood which pervades the pretotalitarian atmosphere. These doctrines were so much at variance with generally accepted intellectual, cultural, and moral standards that one could conclude that only an inherent fundamental shortcoming of character in the intellectual. . . or a perverse self-hatred of the spirit, accounted for the delight with which the elite accepted the 'ideas' of the mob. . . . What the spokesmen of humanism and liberalism usually overlook, in their bitter disappointment and their unfamiliarity with the more general experiences of the time is that an atmosphere in which all traditional values and propositions had evaporated . . . in a sense made it easier to accept patently absurd propositions than the old truths which had become pious banalities . . . . Vulgarity with its cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories carried with it a frank admission of the worst and a disregard for all pretenses which were easily mistaken for courage and a new style of life....on the flourishing of callousness and the demise of decency:Since the bourgeoisie claimed to be the guardian of Western traditions and confounded all moral issues by parading publicly virtues which it not only did not possess in private and business life, but actually held in contempt, it seemed revolutionary to admit cruelty, disregard human values, and general amorality, because this at least destroyed the duplicity upon which the existing society seemed to rest. What a temptation to flaunt extreme attitudes in the hypocritical twilight of double moral standards, to wear publicly the mask of cruelty if everybody was patently inconsiderate and pretended to be gentle . . . ....on the elevation of economic self-interest over societal good:The mass man whom Himmler organized for the greatest crimes ever committed in history bore the features of the philistine rather than of the mob man, and was the bourgeois who in the midst of the ruins of his world worried about nothing so much as his private security, was ready to sacrifice everything—belief, honor, dignity—on the slightest provocation. Nothing proved easier to destroy than the privacy and private morality of people who thought of nothing but safeguarding their private lives. ...on the refusal to disavow repugnant behavior:The Nazis did not strike at prominent figures as had been done in the earlier wave of political crimes in Germany (the murder of Rathenau and Erzberger); instead, by killing small socialist functionaries or influential members of opposing parties, they attempted to prove to the population the dangers involved in mere membership. This kind of mass terror, which still operated on a comparatively small scale, increased steadily because neither the police nor the courts seriously prosecuted political offenders on the so-called Right. It was valuable as what a Nazi publicist has aptly called 'power propaganda': it made clear to the population at large that the power of the Nazis was greater than that of the authorities and that it was safer to be a member of a Nazi paramilitary organization than a loyal Republican. This impression was greatly strengthened by the specific use the Nazis made of their political crimes. They always admitted them publicly, never apologized for 'excesses of the lower ranks'—such apologies were used only by Nazi sympathizers—and impressed the population as being very different from the 'idle talkers' of other parties.The similarities between this kind of terror and plain gangsterism are too obvious to be pointed out....on the contempt for facts, and the interest would-be totalitarians have in anomie and destruction:Mass leaders in power have one concern which overrules all utilitarian considerations: to make their predictions come true. The Nazis did not hesitate to use, at the end of the war, the concentrated force of their still intact organization to bring about as complete a destruction of Germany as possible, in order to make true their prediction that the German people would be ruined in case of defeat. The propaganda effect of infallibility, the striking success of posing as a mere interpreting agent of predictable forces, has encouraged in totalitarian dictators the habit of announcing their political intentions in the form of prophecy. The most famous example is Hitler's announcement to the German Reichstag in January, 1939: 'I want today once again to make a prophecy: In case the Jewish financiers ... succeed once more in hurling the peoples into a world war, the result will be ... the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.' Translated into nontotalitarian language, this meant: 'I intend to make war and I intend to kill the Jews of Europe.' . . .As soon as the execution of the victims has been carried out, the 'prophecy' becomes a retrospective alibi: nothing happened but what had already been predicted....This method, like other totalitarian propaganda methods, is foolproof only after the movements have seized power. Then all debate about the truth or falsity of a totalitarian dictator's prediction is as weird as arguing with a potential murderer about whether his future victim is dead or alive—since by killing the person in question the murderer can promptly provide proof of the correctness of his statement. The only valid argument under such conditions is promptly to rescue the person whose death is predicted. Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it....In other words, the method of infallible prediction, more than any other totalitarian propaganda device, betrays its ultimate goal of world conquest, since only in a world completely under his control could the totalitarian ruler possibly realize all his lies and make true all his prophecies. *sigh* It's not that I believe that we are going to have a Holocaust redux, it's just that I don't understand how people can be so calm, so willing to give the benefit of the doubt. As Primo Levi and others have pointed out, these things rely on manipulable people and incremental deterioration of societal norms. Are we not experiencing that to degrees unlike ever before? Having read this book I feel fairly certain that the genius and psychological understanding of men like Stalin and Hitler is beyond the capacity of a lummox like Trump, but I take such little solace in this because I do believe that he is surrounding himself with the amoral semi-deep-thinkers who are fully capable of wielding extreme power (see, e.g.: this and trading on bureaucratic inertia to accomplish unknowable and untenable ends.Fuck. I need a hug. And a beer.

  • 11811 (Eleven)
    2019-02-03 18:34

    This is so incredibly boring. Maybe anything with this many footnotes is supposed to be but I can't continue punishing myself with it. DNF at 40%. I did skim to the end and, spoiler alert, Hitler loses.

  • Jana Light
    2019-02-03 11:13

    Another book I feel somewhat impotent to review, this time because it is almost too powerful and too real. So many of Arendt's observations and analyses ring true to what I see today that I found myself tearing up multiple times (and this is not supposed to be an emotional book!). Her careful, detailed account of how two violently totalitarian regimes were able to come to power and flourish for a bit in the 20th century is valuable for those who do not want to be doomed to repeat history, and that, coupled with the quality of her research, analyses, and writing, gives this book an unshakable place on my "required reading for all" list. I keep coming back to Arendt's descriptions of the mental states required for an acceptance of totalitarianism, at all levels of power. Not only were folks all-too-willing to follow strong leadership (Milgram experiments show this is not unique to Germany and Russia), but the refusal-that-leads-to-the-inability to distinguish truth from fiction permitted much evil, and that refusal/inability, sadly, seems to be a defining characteristic of humans in the Western world in this past and ongoing century. It is certainly what concerns me most about our own time, with consequences Arendt makes horrifyingly clear. If I had a criticism about the book, it is that when comparing the inhumanity of the Holocaust with the inhumanity of slavery, Arendt seemed somewhat dismissive about the horrors of slavery. Her compare/contrast came across a bit "slavery was awful, but it wasn't THIS kind of awful." It was a bit disturbing, and certainly unsettling. However, I have to mention that I tend to assume qualitative overtones in analyses that are only trying to clarify quantitative differences, so perhaps my criticism has more to do with how I read than what Arendt said. A second reading will help me decide on my own.Seriously, read this book. It is insightful, powerful, tragic, and incredibly relevant, and I have a feeling it will continue to be relevant for many years to come.

  • Terence
    2019-01-28 14:19

    This is essential reading for 2017, no question about it. Arendt is sharp, well researched and cutting in her assessment of the links between Antisemitism, Imperialism and Totalitarianism. This is not just an analyses of the Third Reich but also of the whole system of Russian Totalitarianism. Again just impressive how industry is linked in authoritarian regime, how extermination or prison camps are justified. In another section she mentions how Hitler's talent as a mass orator only made his opponents underestimate him, and how Stalin defeated a great orator to lead his party. It draws many things into focus and crafts a dangerous precedent in the era of Bannon and "so-called" president Trump.

  • Corey
    2019-02-12 11:42

    I found this at a used bookstore, knowing nothing about the book or the author, but willing to fork over $1.50 to learn more. It's been both a challenge and a delight to read, and in light of this election cycle, disturbingly apropos. Some reviewers recommend skipping the two sections on antisemitism and imperialism. Heed them not. Skipping the tough bits is for wimps, and you'll be thankful for the foundation when you get to those final chapters.

  • Jon
    2019-01-22 12:14

    Apparently I am too stupid to understand Totalitarianism, especially this bore fest. Which is scary considering I probably wouldn't have a clue if I was living in a Totalitarian system or not...whatever. I want a burger. And pizza. Burger pizza? Anyways, I started reading the first few chapters and could not believe how mind numbingly boring and academic it is. I would much rather live under a Totalitarian regime than having to read another chapter of this. That's how bored I am! Give me the Gulag, please! For the love of God!I jumped to juicier sounding parts like "The Masses", "Total Domination" and other chapters that sound like heavy metal bands originating in 1983. I thought these chapters would yield something reminiscent of great classics such as 1984, Brave New World, or The True Believer.... Nothing...I really liked other Arendt stuff (that is why I am so patient with it so far), but I am thinking of starting a totalitarian book burning movement due to my lack of enthusiasm for this book. I will continue to jump around, but nothing seems to strike my interest. I think she is too intellectual for me and feel this book could be reduced to two sentences: Totalitarian is shitty and Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia consisted of a bunch of dickheads. America is the best and freedom is awesome! That would have done it for me. I would have gotten the point. I will keep you posted on "Totalitarianism" and its so called "origins" as if this stuff is as easy to predict by reading a shitty book....God, I would rather be subjected to totalitarian propaganda than go on anymore!! OK, ok, you get the point. My metaphors, similes, or whatever they are called are growing redundant and so is this review... I will continue to read it for the good of the people...You're welcome, America.Quotes:p.3 "...the fact is that modern antisemitism grew in proportion as traditional nationalism declined..."p.5 "Only wealth without power or aloofness without a policy are felt to be parasitical, useless, revolting, because such conditions cut all the threads which tie men together."p.311 "It was characteristic of the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and of the Communist movements in Europe after 1930 that they recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was the majority of their membership consisted people who never before had appeared on the political scene."p.317 "Hitler's early party, almost exclusively composed of misfits, failures, and adventurers, indeed represented the "armed bohemians" who were only the reverse side of bourgeois society and whom, consequently, the German bourgeoisie should have been able to use successfully for its own purposes."p.330 "No single element in this general intellectual climate in postwar Europe was very new, Bakunin had already confessed, "I do not want to be I, I want to be We," and Nechayev had preached the evangel of the "doomed man" with "no personal interests, no affairs, no sentiments, attachments, property, not even a name of his own." The antihumanist, antiliberal, antiindividualist, and anticultural instincts of the front generation, their brilliant and witty praise of violence, power, and cruelty, was preced by the awkward and pompous "scientific" proofs of the imperialist elite that a struggle of all against all is the law of the universe, that expansion is a psychological necessity before it is a political device, and that man has to behave by such universal laws. What was new in the writings of the front generation was their high literary standard and great depth of passion."p.337 "It is not fortuitous, then, that the few protests against the Nazis' mass atrocities against the Jews and Eastern European peoples were voiced not by the military men nor by any other part of the co-ordinated masses of respectable philistines, but precisely by those early comrades of Hitler who were typical representatives of the mob. Nor was Himmler, the most powerful man in Germany after 1936, one of those "armed bohemians" whose features were distressingly similar to those of the intellectual elite. Himmler was himself "more normal," that is, more of a philistine, than any of the original leaders of the Nazi movement. He was not a bohemian like Goebbels, or a sex criminal like Streicher, or a crackpot like Rosenberg, or a fanatic like Hitler, or an adventurer like Goring. He proved his supreme ability for organizing the masses into total domination by assuming that most people are neither bohemians, fanatics, adventurers, sex maniacs, crackpots, nor socials failures, but first and foremost job holders and good family men."p.338 "After a few years of power and systematic co-ordination, the Nazis could rightly announce: "The only person who is still a private individual in Germany is somebody who is asleep."p.346 "Totalitarian propaganda raised ideological scientifically and its technique of making statements in the form of predictions to a height of efficiency of method and absurdity of content because, demagogically speaking, there is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future can reveal its merits. However, totalitarian ideologies did not invent this propaganda, and were not the only ones to use it. Scientifically, of mass propaganda has indeed been so universally employed in modern politics that it has been interpreted as a more general sign of that obsession with science which has characterized the Western world since the rise of mathematics and physics in the sixteenth century; thus totalitarianism appears to be only the last stage in a process during which "science has become an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man. And there was, indeed , an early connection between scientifically and the rise of the masses. The "collectivism" of masses was welcomed by those who hoped for the appearance of "natural laws of historical development" which would eliminate the unpredictability of the individual's actions and behavior. There has been cited the example of Enfantin who could already "see the time approaching when 'art of moving the masses' will be so perfectly developed that the painter, the musician, and the poet will possess the power to please and to move with the same certainty as the mathematician solves a geometrical problem or the chemist analyses any substance,' and it has been concluded that modern propaganda was born then and there."p.382 "A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses."

  • Bettie☯
    2019-01-20 16:17

    Description: Hannah Arendt's chilling analysis of the conditions that led to the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes is a warning from history about the fragility of freedom, exploring how propaganda, scapegoats, terror and political isolation all aided the slide towards total domination.There was a lot that I was to say here, however, I find it hard to get past Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem and that painting of the Nuremberg trials: if you have read then you already know how hard it is to comment on certain subjects - words don't cut it.4* Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil4* The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • Mark Valentine
    2019-02-04 12:16

    I know this book (now that I have finally read it) to be, sincerely, a monumentally important non-fiction work of the 20th Century. First, her writing style: She came to English late in life. Her native tongue was German and she learned to write philosophy under the tutelage of Heidegger. She also was fluent in Greek and Latin, then French, and only English when she emigrated to the U. S. in 1941. Here sentences have the Germanic richness; long, organic, fluid, full, meandering sentences that carry the verb at the finish carried in deep-laden paragraphs. Getting used to her writing style may take American readers--who are used to the Executive Summary mode of quick topic and bullet-points punctuating the message--some getting used to reading. Reading her sentences may give a sore neck in the same way that looking up at the stained-glass windows in a cathedral may.Next, her message: Originally, she wanted to call her book the Three Pillars of Hell but her publisher attached the current title. The three pillars are Anti-Semitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism, and she builds from one section to the other in a foundation-building manner. As powerful as the final Totalitarian section is, however, I highly recommend staying with it from the beginning and reading it through front to back.Last, I found the final section to be a jaw-dropping educational experience. The chapter with the strongest impact on me was "Totalitarianism in Operation" but the Epilogue chapter, "Ideology and Terror: A New Form of Government" has enormous value today. When the book first appeared in 1951, it became a Cold War manual on dealing with the new Iron Curtain. In the 1970s, readership had shifted largely on statements Arendt had made in lectures and in the press that challenged the status quo of that generation. By 2000, scholarship has revived around it and it now, for me, it works as a text where the analysis is spot on in distinguishing how Totalitarianism appeared and what its distinguishing characteristics are. I underlined my copy thoroughly and will be referring back to it over and over.

  • Jennifer
    2019-01-22 18:21

    This is not an easy read on any level. Arendt's musings on totalitarianism, its roots, and its impact on the lives of those who live under such regimes can be taken not only as a powerful indictment of the past, but a warning about our present and future in a world where too many politicians see truth and human rights as an inconvenience on their path to a perfect world.

  • Jessica Keener
    2019-01-29 10:26

    This book unequivocally helped me understand how things like genocide can and do happen. Timeless. One of the most important book of the last century.

  • Carly
    2019-02-06 11:27

    This wasn't what I'd hoped it would be, but I think the fault was probably my expectations rather than the book itself. I'm not much for philosophy; I much prefer history. I was hoping for a thorough, fact-driven analysis of the various totalitarian regimes throughout history, determining key characteristics and similarities. Instead, it's a philosophical treatise on Arendt's view of how the Jews became the scapegoats and how Nazi Germany gained power. Fully one-third of the book is taken up with Arendt's analysis of the rise of antisemitism in Europe. The rest involves grandiose oft-repeated axioms based entirely on Nazi Germany. It talks about the importance of a key central figure and an isolating ideology that includes a sense of exceptionalism, etc, etc, but I can't say I feel much more enlightened now that I've finally (finally!) finished it. And maybe there's a stylistic thing, too-- to me, it felt like her grand assertions were stated over and over, and despite the book's length, there was precious little hard evidence to back them up.The most intriguing part of the story isn't even told in this book: for all of her stony detachment when talking about antisemitism and Hitler and the rise of the Nazis, Arendt was herself a German Jew who escaped to America. I think I would have found her philosophizing far more powerful if she'd allowed a bit of the human element to seep through.All in all, while I'm relieved to have finished it, I'm glad I picked it up in the first place. While I found it a dry read, it was still an interesting one, such as her comparison of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and her assertion that autocratic regimes seek to repress opposition while the core goal of totalitarian regimes is domination and control. While it wasn't a great fit for me, I'm sure it's a phenomenal book if you're a fan of philosophy and have an attention span that's a mile longer than mine.

  • Ari
    2019-02-07 14:23

    I had mixed feelings here. I learned things from the book -- it has a number of insights that strike me as interesting and important -- but I'm worried I also learned a lot that isn't true. Disclaimer: I skipped through most of the first two parts ("Anti-semitism" and "Imperialism"), to get to the part I was really interested in, "Totalitarianism".I had expected this to be a work of analytic history, chronicling the rise and operation of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It is not. This is primarily a theoretical work, with long discussions about the place of Man in Society, backed by historical references chosen to be illustrative. Arendt claims that the totalitarian states (Germany and the USSR) were fundamentally alike in some ways, and moreover that they had deep fundamental differences with all previous tyrannies. She bases this claim partly on an analysis of how the regimes operated, but mostly on a close reading of the statements made by their leadership.However, she does not claim that these sources come from any sort of organized sampling. Rather, Arendt is picking the quotes that support her view.This means Arendt can cherry pick with impunity and that the reader should be on guard against her making sweeping generalizations that aren't really true. In some cases, she makes claims that seem plainly wrong. She claims that totalitarianism can only operate in a very large state, such as Russia or Germany at its peak expansion. This seems to have been falsified by the examples of Saddam's Iraq, revolutionary Iran, and above all, North Korea. And that fact that this testable prediction of hers turned out to be wrong makes me wonder if there's a lot else the matter with her analysis.

  • Dan
    2019-01-19 16:29

    This doesn't map neatly to any contemporary ideology, so I suspect that most will find something to object to in it. Nonetheless, it is a great work of political philosophy that I recommend highly.One of her major points towards the end was that while totalitarian states and movement have no inherent ideology, they usually take an available one to ride to power, in the case of the Nazis, racism, and in the case of the Soviets, class struggle. She talks about how all ideologies have the potential to be used by a totalitarian regime, because they posit a secret knowledge as a lens through which everything else is viewed, and contradictory facts are ignored or explained away.Having read Leviathan for the first time last year, I found her discussion of Hobbes fascinating. She talked about the way his philosophy paved the way for Imperialism by convincing the bourgeoisie/middle class that continual expansion was not just an economic model (IE capitalism), it also pertained to nation states. I need to reread and mull this section over.I found her discussion of concentration camps less convincing, though if I read more holocaust survivor literature, that could change.Finally, her discussion of how totalitarian movements dehumanize/deindiviualize people in order to make atrocities more palatable was stunning. On the one hand bureaucracy removes people from their conceptions of themselves and is dangerous in itself. Even more pertinent to the current political landscape is the way that statelessness can put people in a space where it is easier to deny them their full status as humans.It's 500 dense pages, but it is well worth the effort.

  • Josh Friedlander
    2019-02-04 11:31

    A strange, impressive, dizzyingly ambitious book. Is it political science? History? Sociology? Arendt's eclectic skill reflects a vanished age of academic versatility, and a very healthy estimation of her own ability. Drawing together classical and literary references, crowd psychology, and a broad historical view, she describes the origins of anti-Semitism as a political movement in Central Europe, the political ramifications of the decline and rise of the bourgeoisie, and the ways in which totalitarianism came to be seen as a viable system of government. In her view, totalitarian governments exist as a sort of personification of the mob, in which the leader's orders, even if clearly irrational and immoral, contain an arresting logic which inspires blind obedience. Ultimately, she defines totalitarianism as a response to loneliness felt by individuals collected in a crowd and thus, though the Second World War made unlikely the prospect of future totalitarian governments, the conditions which led to them are still present. This isn't a hopeful book, nor is it, from what I understand, the clearest guide to the history of totalitarianism, but it is beautifully written, full of quotable passages and magnificent lines. Arendt, like many post-war German émigrés (Adorno, Mann, Horkheimer...), is a brooding Cassandra, spinning a dark and subjective vision of man, bolstered with references from her encyclopedic mind.

  • AnaVlădescu
    2019-01-30 16:12

    It has taken me 9 months to finish this book. I am glad it took me so long because reading this should absolutely under no circumstance be an effort of racing your own self on its pages. This is a difficult book, both in its choice of subject and in its writing. In it, history, politics, economy, psychology and many other themes are discussed and analyzed, in order to attempt a description of the two main totalitary regimes of Europe in the 20th Century, nazism and communism. It is peppered with both facts and speculations (not the bad kind, though). Arendt both respects and disects the perpetrators and the victims. She manages to be both objectively far away and subjectively close enough to never lose sight of the fact that this is a history book about horror and hell. I very simply enjoyed each page of this book, even when it was tedious: her tone is never condescending, her knowledge never dropped from a place higher than you, her sentences flow logically and are written clearly.... In terms of literary critique, I have no feeling but admiration for Hannah Arendt as an author, as I do in personal terms for her as a woman, as a human being. I personally aspire to be even half as eloquent as her, and hope to be even a quarter as capable of deep, meaningful analysis in my life. This work will take time to read, it will take energy and it will take a lot of patience to truly understand what it is laying out in front of you. However, I can safely say that, up to this point in my historical readings on the subject, this is by far the best one out there.

  • Jon-Erik
    2019-02-08 18:17

    So far, I'm finding this interesting, though it suffers from many of the same defects that philosophers encounter when writing about history. For example, relying on portrayals in novels is not evidence. Not about popular history, not about the "zeitgeist" whatever that is. It's things like that that make me nervous that the conclusions based on these weak propositions are false. Also, there is a powerful dose of Marxist philosophy of history here, which I don't reject because it's Marxist, but because it doesn't explain anything. For example, the nation-state is the "inevitable" consequence of the philosophical precept of "equality" and imperialism is its natural destructor? I don't think this kind of thinking gives enough credit to the power of cognitive difference or apathy.Furthermore, I have a hard time crediting the idea that "race-thinking" originated in late-17th century France. Purity of blood laws and so forth originated in Spain, much, much earlier and race-thinking was a part of the Spanish and British Empires in the "New World" long before French nobility wanted to racially distinguish themselves from the underclasses.I'll reserve judgment on the final thesis of the book until I'm done reading it, but if that thesis is that totalitarianism is a kind of positive feedback loop of purity demands regardless of truth, I'll accept that; if the thesis is that the unique conditions of that existed in a certain time in history, it will be hard to convince me on any basis other than techcological issues.

  • Maggie
    2019-02-08 13:30

    this book was (first) published in 1951, written by a BRILLIANT thinker (who happens to have been a woman) who spanned the 20th century (1906-1975), and covers THE essential topic of that century: the origin of national and international horrors and the political systems/ideas that supported such untoward horror. thus far the 21st century is inheriting this way of politics. this book (amazingly and really) answers so many questions that it is mind-boggling at the sheer number of insights and the strength of the author's reasoning powers. she does the work for us. but our work is large enough: this book will be a serious study for me. i have answers now that i never thought i would be able to gather. and this book does it all. it is NOT that this book "does the thinking for me" ... far far from that!! ... what it does do is trace the sources of the "hunh?! how could THAT happen?! how CAN people think that way? act that way?!"so i highly recommend this book but only if you want to sort through your own thinking and stand on clear solid ground as to the source of horrors that occurred in the 20th century and that, thus far, seems to be carrying itself forward into this century.let's give our children something better! the information in this book will aid being an informed voting citizen.