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- "Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda."
- –Hannah Arendt
- "The ultimate end of any ideology is totalitarianism."
- –Tom Robbins
Historical Context Edit
The term 'totalitarismo' was first used by the “philosopher of fascism” Giovanni Gentile in the midst of the worldwide depression to convey the comforting sense of an “all-embracing, total state” which could provide security and prosperity for its citizens if they would but surrender some of their liberties. It can be argued that totalitarianism is an ancient concept, around for millennia. Under Minister Li Si, Legalism was the prevailing philosophy of the Qin dynasty: political activities were restricted, liberal literature destroyed, and those who did not conform summarily put to death. The rigid caste-based society envisioned by Plato in the 'Republic' has many totalitarian traits, and Machiavelli’s 'The Prince' offered still more totalitarian ideals.
A number of political philosophers and historians have taken up the subject of totalitarianism. Although they don’t agree on much else (such as how effective it may be, under what circumstances and with what results), they do agree that there are five key features that together distinguish a totalitarian state: an official ideology to which general adherence is mandated; a single party, hierarchically organized, interwoven with the state bureaucracy; monopolistic control of the armed forces; monopolistic control of the mass media; a system of terroristic police control; central direction of the state’s capitalist economy.
Although it may be inconceivable that any rational person would willingly give up political pluralism and individual liberty, true liberalism contains a contradiction: unrestrained pursuit of personal liberty is a threat to others, and therefore to society. And pluralism can lead to paralysis. With their stress on the social rather than the individual, and battered by the political and economic chaos following the First World War, a number of political leaders promoted totalitarianism (indeed, there were totalitarian movements in most countries) and some came to power: Benito Mussolini in Italy (1922), António Salazar in Portugal (1932), Adolf Hitler in Germany (1933) and Francisco Franco in Spain (1936). And quite a few since … in Argentina, Paraguay, Haiti, Albania, Angola, Iraq, Uganda, etc., etc., etc.