The Origins of Totalitarianism according to Arendt is a book written by Arendt reflecting on what brought about the issue of totalitarianism movements. As such, The Origins of Totalitarianism examines the two major movements of totalitarian movements in the 20th century which takes in Nazism and Stalinism. In relation to this point, Arendt points out to the transformation of classes into masses. As such, the aspect of non-totalitarian world employing the use of propaganda and the use of terror has as well been examined.
In the same line of thought, isolation and loneliness according to Arendt are the major pre-conditions for totalitarian domination. The totalitarian attempt to make men superfluous reflects the experience of modern masses of their superfluity on an overcrowded earth (Arendt, 1951, p.457). As such, what prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness is the precondition that prepares masses for totalitarian. In this context, this has become an everyday experience of the ever growing masses of our century which have brought about the aspect of surfacing of the totalitarianism. The merciless process into which totalitarianism drives and organizes the masses looks like suicidal escape from this reality (Arendt, 1951, p.478). In reality, totalitarianism is presented as a form of governance that eliminated the very possibility of political action.
What does Arendt mean by 'superfluity'? Is she referring to overpopulation? Or to industrial workers competing for jobs and scarce resources? What is she talking about?
Superfluity according to Arendt (1951) refers to the aspect of industrial workers competing for jobs and scarce resources. As such, such individuals feel so much alienated and out of place while fighting for such scarce resources and jobs. As a consequence, they end up being filled with superfluity and loneliness which as a result breed a sense of totalitarianism. In this sense, Arendt (1951) sees totalitarian power as the radical evil which renders human beings superfluous and the prospective for the radical evil (p.459). As such, superfluity describes the way the totalitarian power has resulted to scarcity of resources and competition for jobs along with the aspect of human beings living in the concentration camps.
In the same line of thought, perpetrators and bystanders superfluity is accomplished through ideological propaganda which is deemed to transform citizens to be thoughtless desk murderers. Superfluity of victims is brought into view by means of ideological programming. From a general point of view, Arendt (1951) definition of superfluity is the aspect of the totalitarian government making it impossible for the industrial workers to get jobs and as such competing for jobs and scarce resources. This makes most of the human beings superfluous and as such more prone to evil.
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What is loneliness? Why does Arendt think it causes (or promotes) totalitarian rule? Can we test her hypothesis? Is there an antidote to despair? Can we avert mass suicide?
In essence, loneliness has to do with the whole human life as it is related with the way totalitarian government like all tyrannies works. As such, Totalitarian governments have the capability to destroy the public realm of life along with the aspect of isolating men along with their capacity to engage in politics (Arendt, 1951, p.475). The kind of loneliness being referred in the context has to do with the aspect of one not belonging in the world an aspect which is the most desperate and radical as an experience to man. Outstandingly, loneliness has been pointed out as a foundational building block for terror.
Closely linked to loneliness, it is the superfluous-ness which is deemed as to have been a curse directed to the modern masses. In this case, this is associated with the industrial revolution along with the rise of imperialism, breakdown of political institutions and in the larger perspective the breakdown of the social traditions brought about by modernism (Arendt, 1951, p.351). At this time, superfluous can be defined as a condition of one not belonging to the world at all. In line with this, loneliness constitutes the aspect of one being abandoned by everything and everybody. Associated with loneliness, it is the aspect of one losing his or her self and as such being manifested in the company of others. Accordingly, loneliness goes beyond the single loneliness and as such becomes organized loneliness which is even more dangerous.
Loneliness has been pointed out as a precondition for total domination and as such, there seems to be no remedy for despair. However, there may be some hope as far as despair s is concerned since one can resolve to seek encouragement from social relationships from the other members of the society. It is however bad when the desperate individuals seek social relationships from the masses who do so for evil purposes. Again in this context, averting mass suicide has been a question which has almost gone without being answered. As such, the answer lies in the fact that it is possible to avert mass suicide by making use of psychological tools and thus come to a point whereby their thinking can be influenced. By so doing, one can influence the involved masses from committing mass suicide
What makes Arendt's approach to these issues philosophical--something more than a jumble of history, politics, psychology and personal reflection? Or is that all there is to it?
Following the approach employed by Arendt, it is evident that a philosophical approach was applied. As such, Arendt explores the totalitarian governments and their effects. As well, Arendt (1951) examines statement like "Or else we shall go "which has been revealed as to be the driving force for most of the Totalitarian propagandas (p.348). In fact, Arendt's approach is thoughtful in the sense that Arendt has examined the reason or rather the preconditions for totalitarianism. Presumably, she has sought to explore on loneliness which is a condition which makes men isolated and as such appear as not to be part or the world or in others word they appear not to be belonging to the world.
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Introspectively, Arendt further looks at the major causes of loneliness and the effects it has. In line with this, she explores on the way loneliness can breed totalitarianism; how loneliness can bring about organized loneliness and in the larger perspective, how dangerous organized loneliness can be, pointing out to its association with mass murderers. Following this point, Arendt (1966) continues to explore on the topic seeking to explain how masses fall for totalitarian propaganda which are constructed on the notion that they have to fight or else all of them go. The political capacities of most of the people in the society have been limited and as such, they have organized evil which is bred in the context of loneliness and superfluity in order to regain their position and sense of belonging in the society.
Superfluity in this sense has to do with the condition of individuals possessing as sense of not belonging to the world. Such a condition makes such individuals to seek support from other superfluous men in the society. This is integrated with the history of Hitler and Nazi group which was directed by the dictates of superfluity and loneliness to form masses of murderers serving the interests and the totalitarian propagandas (Arendt ,1951, p. 341). Arguably, the masses are pointed out as to be in obsession by a desire to escape from reality.
As such, their loneliness and homelessness becomes unbearable owing to the prevailing conditions. It is as a result of such a longing to attain a fictional connection with the human capabilities which are beyond the normal occurrences that brings about the operation of totalitarian governments. In this sense, it is clearly presented that Arendt has managed to thoughtfully integrate history, politics, psychology and personal reflection in order to bring out how totalitarian governments are formulated and the effects associated with them.