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The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Book, Hb244)

The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Book, Hb244) [Kindle Edition]

Hannah Arendt
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Hannah Arendt's definitive work on totalitarianism and an essential component of any study of twentieth-century political history


The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1296 KB
  • Print Length: 578 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0156701537
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; New edition (21 Mar. 1973)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Q9TLJW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #151,601 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive 26 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
If you have a couple of months to spare and an interest not only in the Totalitarian regimes in the former Soviet Union and Germany, but also a desire to learn about antisemitism and imperialism then this is the book for you. If you just want to know about Totalitarianism, get the volume only containing that portion. This is an incredibly dense and comprehensive history that takes both patience and time to wade through. The journey is well worth it, though, as Hannah Arendt shows the incredibly destructive nature of all that makes one human under a totalitarian rule. It isn't a fun read, but definitely a rewarding one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Discourse On Monsters Of Conceit 21 Nov. 2010
By demola
TOOT is Arendt's heavily opinionated opus on Antisemitism, Imperialism and Totalitarianism. On Antisemitism, Arendt opines that Europe's Jews had an active hand to play in being victimized. They refused to integrate, becoming bankers to hated monarchies and ended up being easy targets for radical interests opposed to the aristocracy. She blames the Jews for their "chosenness" saying, "Whenever peoples have been separated from action and achievements ... they have been inclined to ... claim divinity and a mission to redeem the whole world". She doesn't give any other examples of such peoples. [The reviewer is not Jewish nor is he sympathetic as regards the Israeli government's political actions]. Arendt does stress though that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were a forgery.

I think that her analysis is magisterial and incisive and she was an academic at the top of her game. However not all her statements, like this one, have proved to be correct: "Hitler, who during his lifetime exercised a fascination to which allegedly no one was immune, and who after his defeat and death is today so thoroughly forgotten". This was written soon after WW2.

The challenge for Arendt is to keep her reader's interest as the material she presents is both extensive and dense. On that score I don't think she succeeds very well. It takes a herculean effort to complete this 480-page book especially as over 60% is, to be honest, off topic. Despite all, I think the final section on Totalitarianism is superb. She dissects Stalin and Hitler with a precision that chills the bones. How were these two monsters allowed by their people and others in power to get away with genocide on a scale unmatched before and since?
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Arendt belongs to a class of scholars that only seem to appear intermittently throughout history. Her capacity for profound analysis is nowhere better displayed than in this volume. While scholarship has moved on, especially in connection with antisemitism and the social psychology of authoritarianism, her work on totalitarianism stands as one of the finest exegeses of its time. Her overriding concern to equate social progress with socialism and inter alia moral progress makes the book invaluable for those young people today who wonder what happened to faith in political ideologies. I first encountered this work over twenty years ago, and when I came across it again recently, it was still as magnetic and wonderfully refreshing as ever.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Relevance 11 Aug. 2007
There is not one paragraph in this book, particularly in the chapters on imperialism and totalitarianism, that does not apply in some way to the woes of our world today. Thus it is essential reading for understanding the historical process of secrecy, militias, gulags, secret services, military insensitivity, lying governments, false scientfic evidence, media corruption, racism, manipulation, police state politics, demonstrations and ideologies. She warned; we have not listened. The apathy Arendt wrote about is indeed much worse. A great woman; a great thinker. The introduction by Pulizer prize winner Samantha Power (A Problem from Hell) is a bonus.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant thinking but very heavy going. 25 Mar. 2008
A rare book which left me thinking "now I understand".

It is a very detailed analysis of the rise of totalitarian regimes in 20th century Europe. It covers a wide spectrum: anti-semitism, imperialism, the differences between American, British and continental forms of democracy, the propaganda techniques of totalitarian politics and much more.

Although Arendt was writing about the late 19th and early 20th century her words are still relevant. Her book is not a list of atrocities, but focuses on the thinking behind totalitarianism and its implementation. By distancing itself from the horror to focus on political thought and theory the book resonates with much of current European politics. Only the names need to be changed to strip away the democratic facade behind which Europe's current political elites curtail freedom and stifle debate as they work towards their totalitarian goal.

This book has changed the way I think about politics. It has made me more pessimistic about prospects for liberal democracy in Britain because it explains why and how the country is being transformed into a totalitarian state.

This work should be a warning to all Europeans that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, but unfortunately it is very heavy going, so the warning will go unheeded. If only it had been written by that other great American woman historian Barbara Tuchman who knew how to bring history alive.
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