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Determine the value of studying totalitarianism


Totalitarianism is best understood as any system of political ideas that is both thoroughly dictatorial and utopian. It is an ideal type of governing notion, and as such, it cannot be realised perfectly.

Faced with the brutal reality of paradigmatic cases like Stalin’s USSR and Nazi Germany, philosophers, political theorists and social scientists have felt not just intellectually motivated but morally compelled to explain the causes and implications of totalitarianism. This has been in part an attempt to explain the socio-political phenomenon in itself, as well to develop an intellectual tool in the arsenal of democracy.

Diverse philosophical perspectives have been employed. They share the important common denominator of an appeal to the value of human life, critical thought, and a pluralistic society. Many of the key figures among the anti-totalitarian thinkers discussed here were European Jewish refugees who escaped totalitarian systems. Many who work on this question have been motivated by a desire to come to grips, philosophically, with what is undoubtedly the greatest intellectual justification for mass murder in history: the twentieth century totalitarian state