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Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism

Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism Domenico Losurdo Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism A polysemous category Already in 1951, when Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism was first published, the concept of totalitarianism had been debated for decades. And yet, the meaning of the term still lacks a proper definition. Is it possible to find a way through what appears to be a maze? In this article, I shall not examine the examples in which the adjective ‘totalitarian’, even more than the noun that derives from it, bears a positive connotation. In other words, I shall not concentrate on the positive use of the term ‘totalitarian’ with reference to the capacity, attributed to a religion or to any ideology or world view, to posit solutions to all of the many problems that arise from a dramatic situation, or even to answer the question of the meaning of life, a question that concerns humans in their totality . In 1958, though rejecting ‘legal totalitarianism’, that is, totalitarianism imposed by the law, Karl Barth extolled the universalistic impulse and the all-encompassing effectiveness of the Christian ‘message’: ‘The free grace of the Gospel, too, is “totalitarian”, because it Historical Materialism , volume 12:2 (25–55) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Historical Materialism Brill

Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism

Historical Materialism , Volume 12 (2): 25 – Jan 1, 2004

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2004 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1465-4466
eISSN
1569-206X
DOI
10.1163/1569206041551663
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Domenico Losurdo Towards a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism A polysemous category Already in 1951, when Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism was first published, the concept of totalitarianism had been debated for decades. And yet, the meaning of the term still lacks a proper definition. Is it possible to find a way through what appears to be a maze? In this article, I shall not examine the examples in which the adjective ‘totalitarian’, even more than the noun that derives from it, bears a positive connotation. In other words, I shall not concentrate on the positive use of the term ‘totalitarian’ with reference to the capacity, attributed to a religion or to any ideology or world view, to posit solutions to all of the many problems that arise from a dramatic situation, or even to answer the question of the meaning of life, a question that concerns humans in their totality . In 1958, though rejecting ‘legal totalitarianism’, that is, totalitarianism imposed by the law, Karl Barth extolled the universalistic impulse and the all-encompassing effectiveness of the Christian ‘message’: ‘The free grace of the Gospel, too, is “totalitarian”, because it Historical Materialism , volume 12:2 (25–55)

Journal

Historical MaterialismBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2004

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