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Totalitarianism: Totalitarianism is a political form of rule that is characterized by an unrestricted claim to power over the ruled. This claim to power extends to all areas of life, including the public and private spheres. See also dictatorship, rule, society.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Terence Ball on Totalitarianism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 21
Totalitarianism/interpretations/Ball: Once one begins to look for proto-totalitarian themes and tendencies in earlier theorists, they seem to be everywhere.
Prehistory: What is Plato’s perfect republic, ruled by a philosopher-king who employs censorship and ‘noble lies’, if not a blueprint for a Nazi regime ruled by an all-knowing Führer, backed by propaganda and the Big Lie, or for a Soviet-style communist utopia ruled by a Lenin or a Stalin? Much the same might be said about Machiavelli’s ruthless prince or Hobbes’s allpowerful Sovereign or Rousseau’s all-wise Legislator. Indeed, Rousseau’s Social Contract has come in for special censure. Rousseau’s critics have viewed him as a precursor of totalitarianism for four main reasons. The first is his notion of the General Will, which is ‘always right’ and ‘cannot err’. The second is Rousseau’s chilling assertion that would-be dissidents must be ‘forced to be free’. The third is the ominous figure of the omniscient and god-like Legislator. The fourth and most frightening feature of Rousseau’s ideal republic is the civil religion that supplies a religious rationale for its draconian laws and institutions. Taken together, these four features constitute a bill of indictment of Rousseau’s totalitarian intentions (Talmon, 1952(1); Barker, 1951(2); Crocker, 1968)(3).
Other later thinkers – particularly Hegel and Marx – have been subjected to similar criticisms. Among the most prominent representatives of the ‘totalitarian’ approach to textual interpretation was the late Sir Karl Popper, whose The Open Society and Its Enemies (1963 [1945](4)) is the most sustained and systematic attempt to trace the roots of modern totalitarianism to ideas advanced by ‘enemies’ of ‘the open society’ from Plato through to Marx.

1. Talmon, J. L. (1952) The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy. London: Secker and Warburg.
2. Barker, Ernest (1951) Essays on Government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Crocker, Lester G. (1968) Rousseau’s Social Contract. Cleveland: Case Western Reserve University Press.
4. Popper, Karl R. (1963 [1945]) The Open Society and Its Enemies, 4th edn. New York: Harper and Row.

Ball, Terence. 2004. „History and the Interpretation of Texts“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Ball, Terence
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004

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