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The Origins of Totalitarianism: Introduction by Samantha Power Hardcover – April 20, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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)

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; First Edition Thus edition (April 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242256
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hannah Arendt's _The Origins of Totalitarianism_ is a book that takes a hard look at two rival totalitarian movements in the twentieth century, Soviet Communism and Nazism, and traces their historical roots. The book is divided into three volumes focusing on Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. The first of these volumes is concerned with the historical origins of Antisemitism. Arendt examines some of the ways historians have dealt with the historical roots of Antisemitism. For example, some historians have argued based on a "scapegoat theory" that the Jews were used as an innocent scapegoat for the world's ills. Arendt concludes that such approaches are flawed because they fail to take into account the full historical situation of the Jews. Arendt explores the rise of Antisemitism in the birth of the nation-state, the emancipation of the Jews, the rise of the Jewish financiers, the roles of Jews within society, and the infamous Dreyfus affair. Of particular interest here is the role of conpiracy theories concerning such individuals as Benjamin Disraeli or the infamous forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The idea that the Jews constitute a race or are members of secret societies or clubs played an important role in the historical development of Antisemitism. The second of the volumes in this book is concerned with the rise of Imperialism. Here, a discussion of racism and racial thinking is examined involving such racial theorists as Count Arthur de Gobineau and various forms of Social Darwinism. The role of the Boers in South Africa is looked at and a thorough examination of the lives of such individuals as Cecil Rhodes, who called for the creation of a secret society of aristocratic Nordic elite, is made.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Over half a century after its original publication, "The Origins of Totalitarianism" is still the most important treatise on totalitarianism in government. Arendt's book is also just as relevant and important today as it was in the mid-20th Century.

The book is divided into three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism. In the first section, Arendt tracks the rise of antisemitism in Europe, looking mainly at 19th Century events and situations that aided the spread of this phenomenon through European culture. The Dreyfus Affair, which sharply divided France and ultimately became a political battle between antisemites and their opponents at the end of the 19th Century, gets more attention than any other event in this chapter.

In the middle section on imperialism, Arendt shows how the rise and fall of the continental European imperialist movements of the 19th Century (mainly, Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism) helped set the stage for their 20th Century totalitarian successors. As she puts it in opening the chapter on "the Pan Movements": "Nazism and Bolshevism owe more to Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism (respectively) than to any other ideology or political movement. This is most evident in foreign politics, where the strategies of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia have followed so closely the well-known programs of conquest outlined by the pan-movements before and during the first World War that totalitarian aims have frequently been mistaken for the pursuance of some permanent German or Russian interests. While neither Hitler nor Stalin has ever acknowledged his debt to imperialism in the development of his methods of rule, neither has hesitated to admit his indebtedness to the pan-movements' ideology or to imitate their slogans.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Haannah Arendt's THE ORIGINS OF TOTAITARIANISM(TOT)is both a thoughtful book and a frightening view of both the background of totalitarianism as well as the practical application of this political phenomena. The reader should realize this book requires time and careful thought to appreciate the book's importance.

The first section of the book deals with antisemitism which Miss Arendt argues was a cornerstone of later totalitarianism. She argues that the gradual development of mass culture and mass politics resulted in targeting and scapegoating any target minority such as Jews. She explains that antisemitism was a gradual political movement that exploded in the late 19th and especially in the 20th century. A different thesis could have been presented, but thus far this is the best one this reviewer has read.

Part two of the book explains how imperialism and racism merged especailly during the Age of Nationalism. Religious discord was replaced by sociological and political theories that not only extolled nation but also race and blood. This section deals with these two concepts both in Western Europe and Eastern Europe. One must remember that persecution of Jews was particulary lethal in Eastern Europe between World War I and World War II and espeically during The Second World War.

Part three of the book is the best section of THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM. If readers have difficutly with sections one and two of this book, they owe it to themselves to at least read section three.
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