The Origins of Totalitarianism: Introduction by Samantha Power

Overview

The Origins of Totalitarianism is an indispensable book for understanding the frightful barbarity of the twentieth century. Suspicious of the inevitability so often imposed by hindsight, Hannah Arendt was not interested in detailing the causes that produced totalitarianism. Nothing in the nineteenth century—indeed, nothing in human history—could have prepared us for the idea of political domination achieved by organizing the infinite plurality and differentiation of human beings as if all humanity were just one ...

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Overview

The Origins of Totalitarianism is an indispensable book for understanding the frightful barbarity of the twentieth century. Suspicious of the inevitability so often imposed by hindsight, Hannah Arendt was not interested in detailing the causes that produced totalitarianism. Nothing in the nineteenth century—indeed, nothing in human history—could have prepared us for the idea of political domination achieved by organizing the infinite plurality and differentiation of human beings as if all humanity were just one individual. Arendt believed that such a development marked a grotesque departure from all that had come before.
 
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt sought to provide an historical account of the forces that crystallized into totalitarianism: The ebb and flow of nineteenth-century anti-Semitism (she deemed the Dreyfus Affair a dress rehearsal for the Final Solution) and he rise of European imperialism, accompanied by the invention of racism as the only possible rationalization for it. For Arendt, totalitarianism was a form of governance that eliminated the very possibility of political action. Totalitarian leaders attract both mobs and elites, take advantage of the unthinkability of their atrocities, target “objective enemies” (classes of people who are liquidated simply because of their group membership), use terror to create loyalty, rely on concentration camps, and are obsessive in their pursuit of global primacy. But even more presciently, Arendt understood that totalitarian solutions could well survive the demise of totalitarian regimes.
 
The Origins of Totalitarianism remains as essential a book for understanding our times as it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago.

Part I of The Origins of Totalitarianism. With a new Preface by the author.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“I’m more convinced than ever that this book, conclusively developed out of your clarity of vision, represents a major breakthrough for our political world, the first of its kind amid all the current talk of totalitarianism. Every politician ought to read it and understand it. If another author should follow you and put what you have grasped into a logical structure that is simple and easy to teach, one will still always have to go back to the source to participate in that power that enables others to see.”
—Karl Jaspers, in a letter to Hannah Arendt (1955)
Library Journal
Schocken's is the first hardcover edition of Arendt's 1951 volume to be available in decades. The book begins its study with European anti-Semitism in the 1800s and moves up to Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, which the author fled in the 1930s. This edition sports a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Powers. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805242256
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/20/2004
  • Pages: 704
  • Sales rank: 270,871
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

HANNAH ARENDT was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1906, fled to Paris in 1933, and came to the United States after the outbreak of World War II. She was the editorial director of Schocken Books from 1946 to 1948. She taught at Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Chicago, and the New School for Social Research. Among her other books are The Human Condition, On Revolution, Essays in Understanding, The Jewish Writings, The Promise of Politics, Responsibility and Judgment, and The Life of the Mind. Arendt died in 1975.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Preface to the first edition
I Antisemitism
Preface 3
1 Antisemitism as an outrage to common sense 11
2 The Jews, the nation-state, and the birth of antisemitism 21
3 The Jews and society 74
4 The dreyfus affair 117
II Imperialism
Preface 159
1 The political emancipation of the bourgeoisie 167
2 Race-thinking before racism 210
3 Race and bureaucracy 242
4 Continental imperialism : the pan-movements 287
5 The decline of the nation-state and the end of the rights of man 341
III Totalitarianism
Preface 387
1 A classless society 407
2 The totalitarian movement 450
3 Totalitarianism in power 507
4 Ideology and terror : a novel form of government 593
App "Totalitarianism" 617
App "Concluding remarks" 618
Bibliography 633
Index 657
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  • Posted July 16, 2009

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    A must read for all concerned for America's future.

    This book belongs in the required reading list of any social and political sciences classes. There are ideas here that were never taught in any class I have had and should have been. It is as important a book for us today as any of our country's founding writings and documents.

    Written and published in the middle of the 20th Century it is a timeless work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 29, 2009

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