Totalitarianism Essay, Research Paper
Totalitarianism, in political science, system of government and ideology in which all social, political, economic, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual activities are subordinated to the purposes of the rulers of a state. Several important features distinguish totalitarianism, a form of autocracy peculiar to the 20th century, from such older forms as despotism, absolutism, and tyranny. In the older forms of autocracy people could live and work in comparative independence, provided they refrained from politics. In modern totalitarianism, however, people are made utterly dependent on the wishes and whims of a political party and its leaders. The older autocracies were ruled by a monarch or other titled aristocrat who governed by a principle such as divine right, whereas the modern totalitarian state is ruled by a leader, or dictator, who controls a political party.
II. Totalitarian Governments
Those countries whose governments are usually characterized as totalitarian were Germany, under the National Socialism of Adolf Hitler; the USSR, particularly under Joseph Stalin; and the People’s Republic of China, under the Communist rule of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung). Other governments have also been called totalitarian, for example, those of Italy under Benito Mussolini, North Korea under Kim Il Sung, Syria under Hafez al-Assad, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
III. The Party and Its Tools
Under a dictator, members of the ruling party become the elite of the nation. The entire society is subjected to a hierarchical organization wherein each individual is responsible to another in a position of higher authority with the single exception of the supreme leader, who is answerable to no one. All nongovernmental social groupings are either destroyed totally or coordinated to serve the purposes of the party and the state.
Total subjection of the individual became possible only through advanced science and industrial technology. Among the decisive, technologically conditioned features of totalitarian dictatorships are a monopoly of mass communications, a terroristic secret-police apparatus, a monopoly of all effective weapons of destruction, and a centrally controlled economy.
A. Control of Mass Communications
By virtue of the monopoly of mass communications the ruling party and the government are in possession of all channels through which people receive information, guidance, and direction. All newspaper, magazine, and book publishing, as well as radio and television broadcasting, theater productions, and motion pictures, is centrally controlled and directed. All writers, speakers, actors, composers, and poets are enrolled in party-controlled organizations, and they are licensed by the government. Usually they are required to be members of the party. The party line, that is, the party’s interpretation of policy, is imposed on all mass media through censorship.