Is there a price to pay for this?
Hannah Arendt Ideology and terror: Throughout Occidental history, lawless forms of government, such as tyranny, have been regarded as perverted by definition.
Hence, if … the essence of government is defined as lawfulness, and if it is understood that laws are the stabilizing forces in the public affairs of men as indeed it always has been since Plato invoked Zeus, the god of the boundaries, in his Lawsthen the problem Quarterly essay series movement of the body politic and the actions of its citizens arises.
Therefore, in all non-totalitarian forms of government, the body politic is in constant motion within set boundaries of a stable political order, although tyranny destroys the public space of political action Arendt In other words, totalitarianism aims to eradicate entirely the human capacity to act as such Arendt For totalitarian rule targets the total life-world of its subjects, which in turn presupposes a world totally conquered by a single totalitarian movement.
This important passage contains several key ideas that need to be carefully unpacked. What totalitarian rule needs to guide the behaviour of its subjects is a preparation to fit each of them equally well for the role of executioner and the role of victim.
This two-sided preparation, the substitute for a principle of action, is the ideology. Individual subjects of totalitarian rule either surrender to the dynamic process of becoming, or they are consumed by it: The qualification is significant, since the automatism of the impersonal and dynamic forces of Nature or History enjoy complete primacy over the individual members of society, who either join the movement or are swept away by it.
This function, rather than the substance of the ideology, distinguishes totalitarian ideologies from their antecedents in the nineteenth century. As we have seen, in the first two parts of Origins Arendt foregrounds the phenomena of race-thinking and class-thinking, both of which were general trends in nineteenth century European thought and politics, whereas only Marxism could lay claim to a respectable philosophical lineage.
Still, both resonated with a substantial body of popular opinion and sentiment since both doctrines derived their potency and persuasive power from actual historical trends.
Racism and communism triumphed over competing ideologies both because they reflected dominant currents in society and politics and because they were seized upon as the official ideologies of the most powerful and successful totalitarian movements ibid.: Having discovered the laws of motion of totalitarian ideologies — that is, having mastered the intricacies of totalitarian organisation —, the dictator eliminates all obstacles to the fulfilment of the objective laws of movement.
For the imitation or interpretation of these laws, the totalitarian ruler feels that only one man is required and that all other persons, all other minds as well as wills, are strictly superfluous.
If Arendt regards neither class-thinking nor race-thinking as inherently totalitarian, this is because any ideology or system of ideas, insofar as it is articulated as a definite theoretical or political doctrine or formulated as a party program, is incompatible with totalitarianism.
For doctrines and programs, like positive laws, set limits, establish boundaries, and introduce stability ibid.: The key to unlocking this power resides in the totalitarian organisation of society. Freed of the customary standards of lawful action and verifiable truth claims, totalitarian movements unleash terror in accordance with the imperatives of the ideological reconfiguration of society.
All members of society are now the potential targets of a regime of terror that functions independently of both the interests of society and its members Arendt a: The evaluation of interest as an omnipresent force in history, together with the assumption that power is subject to discoverable objective laws, collectively constitute the core of utilitarian doctrines.
Totalitarian ideologies, on the other hand, aim to transform human nature itself ibid.: The transformation of ideologies into fully fledged totalitarian ideologies is thus a crucial prerequisite of totalitarian rule. Guided by ideology and goaded by terror, human beings lose their innately human capacity for spontaneity and action, which is to say their capacity for political discourse and the distinctly human capacity for creative and unconstrained thought ibid.: Arendt argues that totalitarian rulers employ a deceptively simple device for transforming ideologies into coercive instruments: This statement might seem self-evident, even trite.
Yet Arendt means by this two very important points. Firstly, she contends that neither Hitler nor Stalin contributed anything of substance to racism and socialism respectively.
Ideological complexity is also an obstacle to the effectiveness of propaganda, which is distinct from ideology and serves as a recruiting device ibid.: Propaganda thus shelters the movement qua proto-totalitarian society from a worldly reality ibid.: Propaganda is thus principally aimed at the non-totalitarian world.
Propaganda thus serves the organisational interests of the movement while ideology facilitates the exercise of terror, which coincides with the reorganisation of society itself.
Fabrication rather than followers is the key to the success of totalitarian rule. What is required is a complete absence of the ability to distinguish between fiction and reality ibid.: Henceforth, factuality and reality become a matter of mere opinion, whereas the truth of lies is affirmed by the actualisation of ideological goals.
Many ideologies and political sects arising in the nineteenth century go unmentioned by Arendt.The Quarterly Essay book series by multiple authors includes books Appeasing Jakarta: Australia's Complicity In The East Timor Tragedy, Quarterly Essay 4 Rabbit Syndrome: Australia and America, Beautiful Lies: Population and Environment in Australia, and several more.
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