<i>Theorising Dark Times:</i> The Origins of Totalitarianism

Steve Buckler

in Hannah Arendt and Political Theory

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780748639021
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652853 | DOI:
Theorising Dark Times: The Origins of Totalitarianism

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The experience of totalitarianism was central to the development of Arendt's political thought, just as it was to the course of her life. The twin phenomena of oppression on the one hand and homelessness on the other were, Arendt thought, key to the experience of people more generally in contemporary conditions, experiences which totalitarianism sought to press to the ultimate extreme. In analytical terms, Arendt comes up with a broad provisional definition of totalitarianism as a regime that operates by the instrument of terror and which is built upon an abstract ideology invoking inexorable historical processes. The model that Arendt takes from the classical world which most resonates with her sense of her own theoretical engagement is that of Herodotus, whose narrative is sufficiently loose to leave room for many stories and no closed generality is relied upon to bestow meaning on the particular.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; homelessness; oppression; totalitarianism; terror; Herodotus

Chapter.  10818 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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