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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive
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...
Published on 26 Feb. 1999

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12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mistitled, long winded and off target
Having read Arendt's book on the Eichmann trial, I thought this would be an interesting and thought provoking read, as it appeared likely to provide some deeper insights into the kind of regime in which such people as this could prosper. However, much as I hate to say this, I was sorely disappointed.

For a start, this book should really be called "Antisemitism"...
Published on 15 Dec. 2009 by birchden


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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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory reading for any observer of European thought, 17 Mar. 2001
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory Reading for Thinkers, 1 July 2014
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Anyone with an intellectual conscience (i.e. not many) should read this book. Origins is not just a bland work of scholarship but a deft work of political thought in its own right, up there with the great classics. Published in the aftermath of the Second World War, Origins is a long, painstaking meditation on the the build up to, rise and triumph of the Totalitarian States, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

It is a formidable work and, regrettably, of continued political relevance. It is also a pan-European book in the sense that it dissects with much grace and beauty the cultural trends of mid nineteenth and early twentieth century European society and the differences that stood, say, between British and Continental forms of government, the Jewish question and so on and so forth.

Many accuse Arendt's prose of being 'dense' but for a thoughtful person this book can be read in just over a week and personally I find it beautifully written in the style of the great masters (an incredible feat given Arendt's native language was German). Perhaps a classical training is the best preparation to approach this monumental book.

Arendt has been unfairly and cheaply attacked, in her lifetime and after she died, but her achievements have stood the test of time and I make no secret of the fact that along with a select few, Arendt is one of the reasons I keep a certain faith in humanity as long as it is able to allow minds of the caliber to have a say.

I have laboured long and hard in devising my own philosophy as a young man now approaching thirty but Arendt is always a careful reminder that I should keep an eye on factual and political reality whatever the cost.

Five stars.
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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
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PC (Chichester, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Hannah Arendt is the seminal political thinker of the 20th ..., 4 May 2015
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Hannah Arendt is the seminal political thinker of the 20th century. Although the references of the book are about what created Europe as it is now and the 2nd world war, the ripples of what happened are still visible and the way totalitarianism functions is absolutely still applicable
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed!, 23 Mar. 2014
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St86 (Athens, Greece) - See all my reviews
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The definitive anatomy of totalitarianism. The words of Hannah Arendt echo in eternity and we had better pay much more attention.
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12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mistitled, long winded and off target, 15 Dec. 2009
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birchden "birchden" (Eastbourne, East Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Having read Arendt's book on the Eichmann trial, I thought this would be an interesting and thought provoking read, as it appeared likely to provide some deeper insights into the kind of regime in which such people as this could prosper. However, much as I hate to say this, I was sorely disappointed.

For a start, this book should really be called "Antisemitism" as it is 70% or more about its history in Europe. Fine if that's what you are interested in, otherwise useless. As such it is very long winded indeed, with masses of detail and a leaden style. Worse still, having waded through its endless chapters you are left with a sense of having merely skirted around a deeper problem of which antisemitism is actually no more than a symptom. For all of her erudite detail about figures from the French Third Republic and its alleged failure to create a true imperial culture and so on, and her quotes from GK Chesterton (!) etc, Arendt never really seems to leave the reader with anything to get hold of.

The final third of the book, is the only part of it that is really relevant to the title, and while not bad, again never really seems to offer any great insights.

Overall then, one can say that while reading this book might be worthwhile for anyone with unlimited time and patience, if you are really interested in understanding the meaning, roots and consequences of totalitarianism, you will have to look elsewhere. For a start you could read Leszek Kolakowski's excellent chapter in Tucker ed. 'Stalinism' - and virtually anything by Solzhenitsyn.

You might also care to look at Weissberg's 'Conspiracy of Silence' and Figes' 'Whisperers'; I suggest all these books because the USSR is probably the most 'perfect' form of the totalitarian state that has so far been constructed and thus perhaps offers the best subject for study.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 30 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Origins of Totalitarianism (Hbk) (Hardcover)
great book
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The Origins of Totalitarianism (Hbk)
The Origins of Totalitarianism (Hbk) by Hannah Arendt (Hardcover - 8 Dec. 2009)
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