Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Totalitarianism is a term used to denote contemporary forms of tyranny that involve genocide or large-scale human suffering at the hands of ideologically motivated dictators. It is also a politically charged term redolent of the cold war, when the easy equation of communism with Hitler's National Socialist regime (and fascism more generally) held obvious attractions for liberal and conservative commentary. It has never been entirely clear whether the term has a use beyond being a “boo word” that could, as Frederic Fleron memorably put it, be applied to “boo regimes.” Nonetheless, as is clear from a brief survey of the term, many political theorists have deployed the term in various ways that in turn highlight their own normative and philosophical commitments. An evaluation of the concept of totalitarianism thus provides a useful insight into the preoccupations of some of the key thinkers of recent decades. In terms of mapping the ...