A Lying World Order

Peg Birmingham

in Thinking in Dark Times

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230754
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235858 | DOI:
A Lying World Order

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This chapter addresses the question whether totalitarianism is a threat today. It considers one element of totalitarianism that Hannah Arendt was herself very concerned about—a “lying world order.” At the outset of Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt raises the issue of political deception, considering the difference between the ancient and modern sophists and their relation to truth and reality. She argues that while the ancient sophists were satisfied with “a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth”, modern sophists want a great deal more, namely, “a lasting victory at the expense of reality itself”. Arendt claims that the characteristic that sets totalitarianism apart from tyrannical and dictatorial regimes is precisely the modern sophistic victory at the expense of reality, a victory that, she argues, institutes a lying world order. Indeed, her discussion of radical evil in the Origins of Totalitarianism cannot be understood apart from her continuing preoccupation with the problem of this particular kind of political deception.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; totalitarianism; ideology; Origins of Totalitarianism; lying; political deception; truth; reality

Chapter.  2503 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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