The Making of Totalitarian Thought

The Making of Totalitarian Thought

The Making of Totalitarian Thought

The Making of Totalitarian Thought

Synopsis

The totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century reveal disturbing and uncomfortable facts about human nature, social life, and moral progress. Totalitarianism, ironically, came at a time when the 'spirit of modernity' was in full swing and human potential was supposedly at its peak. Distracted by the wonders of the industrial revolution, few would have guessed the horrors that were just around the corner. Focusing on the historical background to twentieth-century totalitarianism, this book unravels the complexity and mystery behind ideas of domination, leadership, and human development. In doing so, it not only sheds light on the dark side of modern thought but also shows that the foundations of totalitarian ideology existed long before the 'modern age'.Totalitarian thought is best understood by looking at four fundamental myths about race, the crowd, revolutionary violence, and eugenics. This book analyzes each myth in depth by tracing its beginnings and development. It shows how key socio-political thinkers wrote about and interpreted these myths and how they became the basis of many important racial and social theories. Specific attention is given to six controversial nineteenth century thinkers - Maistre, Gobineau, Galton, Le Bon, Vacher and Sorel. Llobera, through detailed analysis of their work, suggests that these so-called 'prophets of doom' with their anti-bourgeois, elitist and anti-progressive leanings, understood the socio-political reality of modern society far more accurately than other highly praised social thinkers of the same period. These key figures provide a crucial insight into totalitarianism by overturning nineteenth-century illusions of progress and laying bare the darker aspects of human nature.The Making of Totalitarian Thought is an accessible and penetrating overview of a compelling phenomenon. It emphasizes the importance of previously neglected socio-political writing and neatly unpacks sophisticated intellectual ideas. This book will be an indispensable guide for students and will make an important contribution to debates on humankind and society.

Excerpt

That material civilization does not ensure moral progress was the central proposition forcefully set forth by Rousseau in his First Discourse. It was a simple but disturbing truth that has been an anathema to the spirit of modernity that has dominated the world until the horrors of the very ‘civilized’ twentieth century (wars, genocides, tortures, famines, and so forth) convinced even the most sceptical of its fundamental actuality.

The twentieth century, which only began in 1914, ran its natural course by 1989. the preaching of new gospels has already commenced in earnest. Radical conservatives tell us that if mankind can survive its own militaristic foolishness, the true millennium is heralded in the astonishing technological revolution of the present in the context of a revitalized free market. On the other hand, for the postmodernists, the time of reckoning with past masters who failed in their predictions is in full swing; it is part of the normal process of intellectual purification required to enter the new promised land – a world characterized by the atomization of the socio–political and the distrust of legitimizing grand narratives. From the end of the era it is now safe to pass judgement on those thinkers of modernity – and they are legion – who prophesized, for the twentieth century, a bourgeois or a socialist heavenly kingdom based on industrialism.

What is extraordinary is not so much that we should have remained faithful to the creed of modernity for such a long time – after all material progress has an obnubilating effect – but rather that we should have ignored and muffled those voices who by the late nineteenth century were expressing serious doubts about the blessings of Western industrial civilization. Furthermore, these voices were not only critical of the pretensions of modernity; they were also clarifying, articulating and analysing the mytho–ideological elements required to understand (and even to make possible) the totalitarian movements of the century. in doing that, they were also throwing light on some uncomfortable principles of human nature and of social life.

The failure of the twentieth century to deliver its promises lies squarely in the inability of human beings to foster a sense of community at the national and, more importantly, at the international level. the irony of it all is that the bloodiest of struggles and confrontations have been fought by classes and states in the name of cultural values that were presented to people as communitarian in character, while hiding, in fact, the most naked egotistic interests of a few individuals or of a small elite.

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