Essay Ideal Citizen In A Totalitarian Government


Essay Ideal Citizen In A Totalitarian Government

Essay Ideal Citizen In A Totalitarian Government

Aristotle defined tyranny as an illegitimate form of government by one individual that tightly controlled every part of life and government. Adolf Hitler is the most notorious tyrant. Using a totalitarian society from the past or present, discuss how the state and its leader attempt to impede citizens from exercising their rights. In your discussion, explain some components of an “ideal citizen,” consequences of voter apathy, and ways the state controls the citizen.

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Writing Requirements (APA format)

Length: 1.5-2 pages (not including title page or references page)
1-inch margins
Double spaced
12-point Times New Roman font
Title page
References page (minimum of 2 scholarly sources)

1Define totalitarianism.

· 2Describe the role of ideology in totalitarian states.

· 3Identify the three most infamous totalitarian rulers and how they earned that reputation.

· 4Describe the three developmental stages in the life of a totalitarian state.

· 5Determine the value of studying totalitarianism even though the world’s worst examples of totalitarian rule have passed into the pages of history.

A new and more malignant form of tyranny called totalitarianism reared its ugly head in the twentieth century. The term itself denotes complete domination of a society and its members by tyrannical rulers and imposed beliefs. The totalitarian obsession with control extends beyond the public realm into the private lives of citizens.

Imagine living in a world in which politics is forbidden and everything is political—including work, education, religion, sports, social organizations, and even the family. Neighbors spy on neighbors and children are encouraged to report “disloyal” parents. “Enemies of the people” are exterminated.

Who are these “enemies“? Defined in terms of whole categories or groups within society, they typically encompass hundreds of thousands and even millions of people who are “objectively” counterrevolutionary—for example, Jews and Gypsies (Romany) in Nazi Germany, the bourgeoisie (middle class) and kulaks (rich farmers) in Soviet Russia, and so on. By contrast, authoritarian governments typically seek to maintain political power (rather than to transform society) and more narrowly define political enemies as individuals (not groups) actively engaged in opposing the existing state. Essay Ideal Citizen In A Totalitarian Government

Why study totalitarianism now that the Soviet Union no longer exists? First, communism is not the only possible form of totalitarian state. The examples of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy are reminders that totalitarianism is not a product of one ideology, regime, or ruler. Second, totalitarianism is an integral part of contemporary history. Many who suffered directly at the hands of totalitarian dictators or lost loved ones in Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin’s Reign of Terror, Mao’s horrific purges, or other more recent instances of totalitarian brutality are still living. The physical and emotional scars of the victims remain even after the tyrants are long gone. Third, totalitarian states demonstrate the risks of idealism gone awry. Based on a millenarian vision of social progress and perfection that cannot be pursued without resort to barbaric measures (and cannot be achieved even then), they all have failed miserably as experiments in utopian nation-building. Finally, as we will see, totalitarianism remains a possibility wherever there is great poverty, injustice, and therefore the potential for violence and turmoil—recent examples include Iran, North Korea, and Burma (Myanmar).

One of the lessons of 9/11 is that extremism remains a fact of political life in the contemporary world. It can take many malignant forms. Terrorism is one; totalitarianism is another. This chapter demonstrates clearly that totalitarianism and terror go hand in hand.

The Essence of Totalitarianism
Violence is at the core of every totalitarian state—at its worst, it assumes the form of indiscriminate mass terror and genocide aimed at whole groups, categories, or classes of people who are labeled enemies, counterrevolutionaries, spies, or saboteurs. Mass mobilization is carried out through a highly regimented and centralized one-party system in the name of an official ideology that functions as a kind of state religion. The state employs a propaganda and censorship apparatus far more sophisticated and effective than that typically found in authoritarian states. As the late sociologist William Kornhauser wrote in a highly acclaimed study, “Totalitarianism is limited only by the need to keep large numbers of people in a state of constant activity controlled by the elite.”*

Totalitarian ideologies promise the advent of a new social order—whether a racially pure “Aryan” society envisioned by Adolf Hitler, or the classless society promised by Lenin and Josef Stalin, or the peasant society in a permanent state of revolution Mao Zedong imagined. All such totalitarian prophets “have exhibited a basic likeness … [in seeking] a higher and unprecedented kind of human existence.”* We can trace the totalitarian leader’s claim of political legitimacy directly to this self-proclaimed aim of creating a new utopian society.*

Totalitarian societies are “thoroughly egalitarian: no social differences will remain; even authority and expertise, from the scientific to the artistic, cannot be tolerated.”* Thus, individualism is rejected and even criminalized. The rights of society are paramount, leaving no room at all for the rights of the individual.

At the heart of this harmonious community lies the concept of a reformulated human nature. The impulse to human perfection was reflected in Lenin’s repeated references to the creation of a “new Soviet man” and in the Nazi assertion that party workers and leaders represented a new type of human being or a new breed of “racially pure” rulers. Mao Zedong displayed a near obsession with something he called rectification—the radical purging of all capitalist tendencies, such as materialism and individualism, at all levels of Chinese society.

The clearest examples of such utopian political orders have been Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union (especially during Stalin’s Reign of Terror), and Maoist China. Other examples in recent history include Pol Pot’s Cambodia (1976–1979) and Mengistu’s Ethiopia (1977–1991), while North Korea is a contemporary case. In the following section we examine the stages in the evolution of totalitarian regimes.

he Revolutionary Stage of Totalitarianism
How do totalitarian movements start? Typically, they emerge from the wreckage of a collapsed or collapsing state. In such turbulent times, a charismatic leader sometimes steps onto the scene. Leadership is crucial to the success of any revolution. In the case of total revolution, leadership is one of five key elements. Ideology, organization, propaganda, and violence are the other four.

Perhaps the most conspicuous trait of total revolution has been reliance on what we may term the cult of leadership. Virtually every such revolution has been identified with—indeed, personified in—the image of a larger-than-life figure. The Russian Revolution had its Lenin, the Third Reich its Hitler, the Chinese Revolution its Mao, Cuba its Castro, and so forth. Each of these leaders became the object of hero worship. Without such a leader, observed Eric Hoffer, “there will be no [mass] movement”:

It was Lenin who forced the flow of events into the channels of the Bolshevik revolution. Had he died in Switzerland or on his way to Russia in 1917, it is almost certain that the other prominent Bolsheviks would have joined a coalition government. The result might have been a more or less liberal republic run chiefly by the bourgeoisie. In the case of Mussolini or Hitler, the evidence is even more decisive: without them there would have been neither a Fascist nor a Nazi movement.*

Revolutionary leaders instinctively understand that the masses possess the raw power to change the world but lack the will and direction. Without a charismatic leader—one who can read their minds, capture their imagination, and win their hearts—there is nothing to act as a catalyst. A leader such as Lenin or Mao, then, is to a mass movement what a detonator is to a bomb. Essay Ideal Citizen In A Totalitarian Government

Whatever the quality of leadership, total revolutions depend in the final analysis on the willingness of converts to engage in extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice in the name of the cause. Such reckless devotion cannot be inspired by rational appeals. It must arise, rather, from the true believer’s blind faith in the absolute truth provided by a comprehensive political doctrine.

Consider what an ideology must do for its followers if it is to be successful:

It must claim scientific authority which gives the believer a conviction of having the exclusive key to all knowledge; it must promise a millennium to be brought about for the chosen race or class by the elect who holds this key; it must identify a host of ogres and demons to be overcome before this happy state is brought about; it must enlist the dynamic of hatred, envy, and fear (whether of class or race) and justify these low passions by the loftiness of its aims.*

The Need for a Scapegoat: Reinterpreting the Past
As a critique of the past, ideology generally focuses on some form of absolute evil to which it can attribute all national (or worldwide) wrongs and social injustices. To the revolutionary ideologue, the true causes of economic recession, inflation, military defeat, official corruption, national humiliation, moral decadence, and other perceived problems are rooted in the mysteries and plots of a rejected past.

If an enemy does not exist, it is necessary to invent one. Usually it is an individual or a group that was already widely feared, hated, or envied. Lenin blamed the plight of workers on money-grubbing capitalists. Hitler blamed Jews and communists for the German loss in World War I and the economic crises that preceded his assumption of power. Mao found his enemy first in wealthy landlords and later in “capitalist roaders.” Clearly, the purpose of these ploys was to focus mass attention on a readily identifiable scapegoat on whose shoulders all the nation’s ills could be placed.

According to Hoffer, “Mass movements can rise and spread without a belief in God, but never without a belief in a devil.”* Hate and prejudice, rather than love and high principle, seem the most effective forces in bringing people together in a common cause.

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