Examining Historical Context

Introduction

Totalitarianism refers to the system of governance where the government exercises absolute power over its citizens. The government has centralized its authority over human life. Perhaps, citizens in a state tend to be subordinate, and, in most cases, their cultural expression is suppressed. According to Passerini (2017), the phenomenon of totalitarianism is portrayed to have been pursued between the time of World War I and World War II. During this particular time, many countries were seeking its security through totalitarianism. First, in European countries such as Russia, Germany, Spain, and Italy, fascism started with authoritarian governments that were very conservative. These governments were regarded as anti-democrats who relied heavily on police and armies to control the people. However, due to lack of efficient communication and transportation, the conservative authoritarian governments were not able to control every aspect of individual’s lives. George Orwell who is one of the scholars portrays the control of the people by its government in various novels; perhaps, books and literature is a mirror of the society. This essay seeks to discuss the usefulness of totalitarianism form of governance concept.

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First, under totalitarianism, individuals were expected to support the political campaigns that were against liberal ideas because liberal minds are depicted as a problem to the totalitarian government. After the First World War, many countries like Germany were left in a pessimistic mood which in turn endangered human right’s respect and that of the liberal minded individuals. Furthermore, First World War also led to great depression; therefore, many people were seeking peace and security in their countries totalitarianism was adopted as its primary objective is to bring peace and order n in a state. The concept of totalitarian has been differentiated to military, religious and fascism in various European countries. Fascism from of totalitarian has been supported and held by Adolph Hitler.

There are terrifying experiences in a totalitarian government. Citizens are denied freedom of speech for the government makes decisions that think it benefits the citizens. The government had full control over the citizens such as psychological manipulation, control of information, and language as well as physical control with an attempt to control the minds of its citizens as stipulated by Shlapentokh (2017). The authorities are watching its citizens and scrutinizing them in case of a slight mistake; totalitarian viewed human critical thinking as a punishable crime. Nonetheless, since the growth of civilization many countries have been seeking to have a totalitarian government. They believe that a totalitarian government can function exemplary with efficacy because they have absolute power control over any government affairs. The people in the state are not involved in decision making; thus, they are not supposed to be worried of any worldly affairs the government is there and makes all the decisions as well as achieving the set objectives without hesitation.

Since totalitarianism was widely embraced in Russia during the fifties, one of the Russian citizen’s states that every government in different parts of the world is characterized by a distinctive form of government, yours might be democracy characterized by corruption; ours is totalitarian and is moderated by assassinations. Many researchers have the perception that having a dictatorship regime in a country cannot acknowledge its agendas hence no country should be allowed to embrace this kind of government because it is a dictatorial and centralized system that requires subservience to the government as stated by Shlapentokh (2017). Perhaps, one of the critical attributes of the totalitarian government is to shape the mind and actions of the people in society through forceful means.

Historians have argued that Nazism which is the value of totalitarianism seems to be extremely limited as they compare the regime with other totalitarian states. Historian’s states that Nazism could not be portrayed as totalitarian because it was not monolithically structured like Stalin’s Russia. Perhaps, Nazism was merely a scheme of self-fulfillment with no methodological Marxism theory. There was no point that Nazism had state possession influencing the economy compared to what developed in Stalin’s Russia. Despite Nazi party dominating the affairs in the state, the authorities divided power between industrialists and armed forces. Stalin’s communist party, on the other hand, possessed absolute power and control over different state affairs in Russia. According to Drucker(2017), Hitler brought different state affairs in which autonomous authorities were ranging alongside and against one another. Hitler improved his leadership nationwide through propaganda; however, there are no sufficient implications to state that Stalin used popularity to maintain his power and leadership. Historians have generally debated on the weak dictatorship of Hitler.

Perhaps, laws, policies, and campaigns stipulated by Hitler enabled him to lead Germany in a totalitarian leadership and controlled German life to be under the state. Perhaps, all aspects of Hitler’s governance were led by totalitarianism right from political principles to personal lives. Over time, Adolf Hitler remained to be the unchallenged Fuhrer of Nazi resulting in the establishment of totalitarianism. Historically, people in society need to be guided and governed to protect them from enemies, criminals, and thieves. Theocracy, for instance, has placed power had placed power in the hands of priests who are regarded as supernatural spokesmen hence they are to be obeyed without question. Monarchy, on the other hand, placed powers, and control on king and queen, democracy placed power on the majority. Out of the above atrocities, totalitarianism is depicted to be dehumanizing.

Totalitarianism manipulates the minds and bodies of its citizens. The governance regularly watches its citizens for any form of disloyalty, and anyone who defies the state rules is punished and subjected to brutal torture. Traverso (2017), totalitarianism is also responsible for controlling information as well as other means of information sources. For instance, Russia during the 19th century was controlling the information system. It rewrites the content in Newspapers to fit in its end. Nonetheless, totalitarianism system does not give its citizens a chance to keep the records; therefore, it makes it harder for them to challenge the government’s authority and actions. Lack of past physical records makes people believe in whatever the totalitarian system tells them to do.

Totalitarianism controls people’s language and language is what controls the mind. George Orwell states that Language is the central key to human thought because it structures individual’s ideas. Furthermore, the totalitarian system alters the language from English to Newspeak hence limiting the ideas that the people can express. Over time, Newspeak is refined to perfection by totalitarian with an objective that no one can conceptualize any information that might question the government’s absolute power and control over the people. With no historical records like photographs and different documents the people can quickly forget things, and over time they are stored in their subconscious mind where the information can be accessed through dreams because it is the information that has been suppressed in the daily life activities.

The useful totalitarian concept in Russia is in the education system. It is through education that people’s lives are being controlled because forceful education itself is a form of psychological manipulation. Through education, there is a high possibility of massive deception which is most likely attributed to totalitarianism. According to Hendy (2016), by 1928 Stalin is said to have now become the undisputed successor and leader to Lenin and CPSU respectively. Stalin’s power had filled politburo with Stalin’s supporters, and slowly the political discussions started fading away leading to totalitarian in USSR. Stalin through its party and bureaucracy extended its authority and power over the people.

Perhaps, a personality cult was seen as a bizarre semi-religious institution which emerged after Stalin’s assumption to power. The institution of art and culture by Stalin contributed immensely to a personality cult. Artists and workers were forced to join different unions including the union of Soviet artists, failure to join the union was treated as illegal. Socialist realism was the only form of art that was produced between 1928 and 1945. Furthermore, the party controlled all the outlets of creativity thus marginalizing all the USSR problems such as hunger and poverty. Socialist realism took an appeal and encouraged people to adopt social motivation and not self-interest. Over time, art was turned to a form of propaganda which later turned USSR to a totalitarian state. The analogy of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ was believed to apply in cases where a problem was not openly discussed.

However, through coercive machinery, Stalin was able to mute and purge all the opposition. OGPU was used to purge all dissidents in USSR. Purges resulted in the execution of any party. Many totalitarian regimes try to remove natural ties in familial bonds and replace it with artificially which the state created itself. Under totalitarianism, every citizen’s details are governed and recorded whereby citizens are supposed to work for the country by the state and also with the state. This governance contains a single powerful government that reigns and controls everything in the state. Citizens in Russia and Germany who are under totalitarianism have no privacy in life because the government controls their lives and can use it and dispose of it whenever and wherever it pleases.

Moreover, under totalitarianism in USSR there is no existence of rights because the state must approve all actions done by its citizens, in accord t this there are no rights. According to Gessen (2017), United States is better because it is democratic; in totalitarianism, the people in the society do not have a right to speak and socialize freely, practice religion freely as well as no free press. Furthermore, Spain, Italy and Germany states under Hitler, Lenin and Franco were known to be totalitarian regimes. These states are governed by a central figure that collaborates with central government which in turn does not tolerate any form of diverging opinions from parties; they are obligated to controlling different aspects in the society.

Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin developed totalitarian regimes that were closely related. Despite Nazism and Soviet communism being opposites, they both tend to have dictatorial attributes that make them more similar. After embracing totalitarianism, both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union changed politically, economically as well as its societal stability. The two states had to shift politically to fit in the totalitarian regime. In such contexts, states emerged with one party ruled by one leader. For instance, Hitler in German and on the other hand Lenin and Stalin in the Soviet case, as a result, both states underwent political purges that contributed to the totalitarian regime.

During the 20th century, the civil war in Russia led to social and economic instability as well as devastation which resulted in adverse effects such as unemployment and impoverishment. However, the United States and the United Kingdom remained strong while Germany, Italy, and Russia formed the new government of totalitarianism. Many people in Europe were dying and suffering from hunger; therefore, these people were looking for a savior ruler who will assist them in solving the problems they are facing, perhaps they had hopes of having prosperity in their states, and they only needed a ruler. It is during this time that propaganda became a perfect historical tool for totalitarianism.

Additionally, during this period of the twentieth century, propaganda was considered the essential branch in government. This branch aided in maintaining control over the people and society at large. The government-controlled Books, Newspapers and even press, and it is the government that decides what the people should think and what they should not think of, they also made decisions for people in the society. The society’s opinions do not count. Through totalitarianism powers, the nation was reshaped and reformulated. However, the conflict between Italy, Russia, and Germany during conquest expansion of territories is portrayed to have set a stage for world war three.

In Italy, it is portrayed that democratic government had some weaknesses that are why the totalitarian government was an option. The Versailles peace treaty caused dissatisfaction among the people hence exposing the challenges people can face in the Italian democratic government. People were angry and claimed to apportion of the central powers. Unemployment and other problems invaded Italy, and the government was unable to solve the issues stated hence a single party was created led by fascist leader Mussolini to solve the chaos and radicalism in Italy at that time. Mussolini formed a Fascist party that ensured there is a protection of private property as stipulated by Bernholz (2017). However, Mussolini just like any other dictator used his power and authority to control mass media and the people by using propaganda; he enforced totalitarianism in Italy hence resulting in a prosperous Italy with a robust economy.

In different contexts, totalitarianism is useful because it dedicates powers to the government, military and political parties in power. It does not allow one single person to dictate control of all the government issues and affairs. However, in totalitarianism, the opinions from the citizens have no much input in the decision making of states unless if the citizen’s views are in line with the government. Contrarily, in democracy, citizens choose on how they want their country to be governed. In Nazi Germany for example, totalitarianism is used to influence the public domain. Hitler used his charismatic skills to convince his people to back him up and follow his belief. His political party had strong political background with large masses of people backing him. Hitler also had a strong army that ensured vigorous enforcement in anything that was said by Hitler. In a totalitarian state, there is stability because there is no opposition to cause chaos.

Consequently, Totalitarian governments tend to install people who are competent and efficient in critical positions to ensure that policy execution is efficient as stated by Awan and Raza (2016). Decisions in this governance are strictly made from top to down with no mediation and implementation of policies follows immediately. Nonetheless, the strictness in not involving the public in decision making provides consistent recourse to instruments such as police and armed forces. Historically, Totalitarian states are known to be hyper-aggressive with a quench of expansionism towards the neighbors thus exposing its citizens to dangers of war. Furthermore, people under totalitarianism can indulge themselves in subversive behaviors that could have been avoided because they don’t have political voices.

History teaches that when there is a rise of power and responsibility in a state, it affects profoundly revolutionary parties. In expectation that totalitarianism will lose its powers and revolutionary momentum common sense was entirely justified. Perhaps the only rule that applies in a totalitarian state is that the more visible a government or state is, then the less powerful it becomes while, the less noticeable the government is, then the more powerful it becomes as stated by Wolin (2017). Real power begins where there is secrecy. For instance, the Nazi party had lesser powers for they recruited its members openly.

In conclusion, if totalitarianism is considered as the state’s solely power then administrative, economic and productivity questions are left aside. Relegating one office to shadow and the other one is elevated to authority can aid in solving state affairs and problems without anyone knowing. It is clear that the totalitarian government does not replace one law with another or rely on any consensus to carry out its duties. Perhaps it does not subject itself to the tyranny of lawlessness and fear. This government believes it can perform well without any consensus because it promises man justice on earth and claims to present humanity as an embodiment of the established law.

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References

  • Awan, A.G. and Raza, S.A., 2016. The Effects of Totalitarianism and Marxism towards Dystopian society in George Orwell's selected fictions. Global Journal of Management and Social Sciences, 2(4), pp.21-37.
  • Bernholz, P., 2017. Totalitarianism, Terrorism and Supreme Values. Springer.
  • Drucker, P., 2017. The end of economic man: The origins of totalitarianism. Routledge.
  • Gessen, M., 2017. The future is history: how totalitarianism reclaimed Russia. Granta Books.
  • Hendy, S., 2016. The rise of totalitarian states. The Undergraduate Research Journal, 4, pp.192-198.
  • Passerini, L., 2017. Memory and totalitarianism. Routledge.
  • Shlapentokh, V., 2017. A normal totalitarian society: how the Soviet Union functioned and how it collapsed. Routledge.
  • Traverso, E., 2017. Totalitarianism between history and theory. History and theory, 56(4), pp.97-118.
  • Ward, C.E. ed., 2020. The Stalinist Dictatorship. Routledge.
  • Wolin, S.S., 2017. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism-New Edition. Princeton University Press.

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