• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12

The philosophy of totalitarianism: What is it and how does it affect our understanding of the past?

Extracts from this document...


The philosophy of totalitarianism: What is it and how does it affect our understanding of the past? Synopsis Initially having the aim of analysing Hitler's rise to power, this paper now addresses the reality of totalitarianism and what it takes for any given state to be defined as totalitarian and the effects it has on the perception of such regimes throughout history; with a focus on Nazi Germany. A general conclusion had to be reached through comparison between the philosophies of both Zbigniew Brzezinski and Carl Friedrich, as set out in their book 'Totalitarian dictatorship and autocracy' published 1956 and revised in 1965, and Hannah Arendt, in her book The 'Origins of Totalitarianism' published 1952, with support from source material describing the realities of life under Hitler. This paper highlights that it is of utmost importance that a totalitarian state be studied without automatically applying outdated stereotypical, ineffective, biased criteria; exactly what Arendt and Brzezinski have provided us with. It is through the use of a range of sources that the inadequacies in the definitions posed by Brzezinki and Arendt are unveiled and consequently identified. It follows that these inadequacies are inherent in every generic description of the qualities of any given political system and as such the usefulness of these definitions as comparative terms is extremely limited. This fact does not however deter people from using these terms in writing history to categorise leaders and regimes; it does not deter historians from allowing biases creeping into their work through the use of these words. This paper has been formed through analysis of a broad spectrum of sources, mainly secondary sources. The references were carefully chosen with emphasis being given to the use of memoirs as well as revisionist histories from recent times and closer to the 1930's and 1940's. Such sources were included simply because it is important that histories come from different times and as such suffer from different contextual influences. ...read more.


growth in armed forces.19 The economy of the totalitarian state must be effectively directed with only so much control that the system can be directed effectively; it must obtain growth and combat economic problems to the best of its ability so as to ensure political, social and economic stability. Conversely, Arendt argues that "the totalitarian dictator regards the natural and industrial riches of each country ... as a source of loot and a means of preparing the next step of aggressive expansion".20 Arendt thus labels the totalitarian economy as a war economy, but it is not necessary for a totalitarian leader to adopt such an economy as such economies finance expansionistic foreign policies and totalitarianism does not have to have an international focus; rather it must have a national focus. Arendt is too specific on this point and is once again directly attacking Hitler rather than discussing the realities of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism does not require "state ownership of all the means of production and distribution but, rather, a central control and direction of the economy"21; with only so much control so as to ensure central direction. A totalitarian state refers to the structure of the state, and not necessarily the aspirations of the leader. Similarly, the economy does need to be centrally directed, but it does not have to be directed so as to be a war economy. No matter what economic system the state chooses to facilitate, there needs to be a "monopoly of the means of effective mass communication"22 so as to ensure that economic, social and political goals can be obtained and the people can be informed of such successes. Contrary to Brzezinski's criterion, a totalitarian state does not need to control every method of mass communication, rather there is only a requirement to strongly regulate, influence or control a majority of all the major methods of mass communication subject to the discretion of the leader. ...read more.


The only thing 'wrong' with Shirer's book is that he is an American expelled from Germany once war broke out. He also, however, lived in Germany for many years before that, giving him not only an insight into the German people from about Hitler's rise but an understanding of the people that put Hitler into power. His account is balanced and does not seem to be writing from an anti-Nazi perspective, which he probably does to ensure his credibility remains intact and his book remains usefulness as a source; he achieved this. Process Log November, 2003 Decided on a paper focussing on the Battle of Stalingrad, but had no precise question in mind. I began my research by reading books on Stalingrad and about Nazi Germany with an emphasis on Hitler's state of mind. December, 2003 Reading continued, other research was undertaken in the form of internet research and looking for other electronic and physical sources. I enjoyed the holidays. January, 2004 Reading and research trailed off, giving way to continued enjoyment of the holidays. February, 2004 Research began again, reading progressed well. Question changed focus to why Hitler lost. Discussed ideas and changes to the question with Mr Davis, he located me some useful sources to add to my growing collection. March, 2004 I called and emailed J�rgen Tampke, Professor of History at UNSW, with the help of Mr Davis. Mr Tampke helped me refine my question further, but accidentally pointed me in the direction of the rise of Hitler. His emails contained sources that he recommended I use. My focus was in doubt, and as such I could tell I was about to change my question again. April, 2004 Due to exams and an extremely busy Easter Holidays, minimal work was achieved over this time. May, 2004 By this time I had changed my question briefly to the Rise of Hitler and soon after I changed it to an investigation on what totalitarianism really is. I received Arendt's book courtesy of the ANU library, Mr Davis subsequently provided me with a paperback copy which he 'forgot he had. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Germany 1918-1939 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Germany 1918-1939 essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Was Hitler a Totalitarian Dictator?

    3 star(s)

    It is clear evidence that Hitler was prepared to be absolutely ruthless in his drive to set up a total dictatorship. Hitler had many ways of dealing with the opposition one of these ways was the concentration camps. Concentration camps were prisons set up for enemies of Hitler.

  2. How did Hitler turn Germany into a totalitarian state?

    Yet another example of Hitler persuading the German public to be on his side. Is the economic improvements he made.' He had restored Germany her self-respect.' Germans believed he was the answer to all their problems, of course there was the sacrifice of their free speech and independence, but they

  1. To What Extent Was Nazi Germany a Totalitarian State 1933-1939?

    They didn't want lose again! Military expenditure increased from 1.9 billion marks in 1933 to 5.8 billion at the start of the four-year plan, rising to 18.4 billion marks in 1938 and 32.2 billion in 1939. This rapid increase was very successful in reducing unemployment rates and strengthening Germany's position in Europe.

  2. To what extent was Nazi Germany a totalitarian state?

    Because of this, people believed the myth of the Gestapo but it was in fact, their neighbours who were telling on them. " Government control of all key institutions, such as the army, youth movements and the workers' organisations." The Nazis achieved control of key groups by creating central organisations

  1. How did Hitler establish a dictatorship?

    such a law is in itself a limited one," Hitler told the Reichstag. He also promised an end to unemployment and pledged to promote peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But in order to do all this, Hitler said he first needed the Enabling Act.

  2. To what extent was Hitler a totalitarian dictator?

    be implemented quickly and those who were braking them would have less time to stop. 4. Contracts of the Reich with foreign states which affect matters of Reich legislation shall not require the approval of the bodies concerned with legislation.

  1. Between 1933 and 1945 Hitler and the Nazi Part were successful in their creation ...

    Many workers simply were not won over by the Nazis as they resented being controlled by the state. In the end, it is hard to justify the response of the working class under the dictatorial regime. It "must be that they failed, but it did secure their (working class)

  2. adolf hitler

    According to Hitler, Jews were responsible for everything he did not like, including modern art, pornography and prostitution. Hitler also alleged that the Jews had been responsible for losing the First World War. Hitler also claimed that Jews, who were only about 1% of the population, were slowly taking over the country.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work