Is the totalitarian state an idea that we still need to fear in the 21st Century or have we learned our lessons of the 20th Century well enough?
I think that totalitarianism was an attractive and new idea for the lower classes of the 20th century, but now that the realities of totalitarian states are more easily shown and spread by the media, most people can see the instability and problems with such a system. In developing countries however, especially in Africa, totalitarianism poses a large threat, and is often the outcome of frequent civil wars and coups that continue to plague developing countries. The strongmen prey on the emotions and needs of the people, and cultivate an image that makes them seem the savior, yet many times their motives and methods are far less noble and different than they let on. While not openly totalitarian, many states have a head figure that makes decisions, such as Assad in Syria, and can be almost impossible to depose when the more powerful, democratic states are afraid to jeapordize such important economic ties with governments sitting on top of essential natural resources.
I agree with Jordan. I think that developed countries and countries that directly were involved in WW2 know and are aware of the consequences of a totalitarian state. For example, because of the US involvement in WW2, we obviously learn about the war and the tragedies today and each generation has seen through education and history how terrible life was under these dictators. However, for those countries who were not as involved with major totalitarian states in the 20th century and who were not directly affected by WW2 and its reprocutionsm, a totalitarian takeover could be more understandable. Also for countries like Russia who to do this day celebrate totalitarian leaders like Stalin and Lenin, they are more susceptible to a totalitarian leader seeing as they do not view their predecessors in a negative light. On the other hand, countries like Germany are devoted to apologizing for their actions and making sure that they are not viewed today as they were in the 20th century. So basically what I am saying is that if a contry views the totalitarians of the 20th century negatively they are less susceptible to becoming totalitarian today versus a country who is not ashamed of the actions taken in the 20th century. Mary
I pretty much agree with what has been said. Yes, I think that in today's modern world, there is always a possibility for the rise of totalitarianism, especially in countries with failing economies. In Germany's Weimar Republic, the people believed that Hitler could bring them out of the chaos and instability of their weak government, and so they were eager to give Hitler power because he promised a better future for Germany. I think that the people's desire to build Germany into a powerful and influential state after it had been subdued by the rest of Europe blinded them from the potential violence and corruption of Hitler's regime. Overall, I think that even though kids are taught in developed, industrialized countries that dictators are corrupt and undemocratic, developing countries are more susceptible to subitting to dictators who promise future prosperity. (Mackenzie)
I also agree with what Jordan said. An important aspect of his argument that I think should be highlighted is the impact of the media on the totalitarian state. Both the USSR and Germany were able to hide the horrible abuses of their totalitarian regimes behind censorship. Lenin was an expert in manipulating the western media’s view of the USSR using tricks such as show trials. By keeping westerners in the dark about the exploitation occurring in their countries, both Lenin and Hitler evaded foreign intervention. Their control of the media also kept their subjects from joining together in mutual discontent because they were not able to voice their discontent. In the 21st century however, not only would totalitarian states not be able to keep foreign reporters out, they also could not stop communication between subjects. Media is a vital aspect to modern society, and with so many means of communication it would be impossible to control them all. Without this control, it would be nearly impossible to create a totalitarian state. To Jordan’s other point though, developing countries are less engaged in the media and therefore are the most vulnerable to totalitarianism. (Laura)
I believe that countries that were involved in the aftermath of World War I and also World War II, have learned from the brutal history and would today deter from a totalitarian form of government. I also agree with Mackenzie’s statement especially when she said that weak governments are more inclined to accepting this extreme type of government. In a time of crisis, there is an immediate need for some sort of leader who can make quick decisions; unfortunately history has shown us that these leaders tend to be cruel and harsh in their command. I think in a country like the United States and many European countries, there is more to lose in terms of the economy and political structure as oppose to smaller countries struggling to find a strong foundation in these two aspects. (Kavitha)
I hate to be repetitive but I also agree with what the majority of people have said above. While people in the United States and other modern democratic countries cringe away from the idea of dictators, there are many places in this world where dictatorships are seen as solutions to their problems, whether they are economic or political, rather than problems in and of themselves. Where we have been taught for years of the destruction, chaos and evil that men like Stalin and Hitler committed, many others have never learned such things and when in times of doubt seek to replace moderate governments with one of the extremes, either totalitarianism or socialism. The only thing these societies are able to grasp is that their system is not working and so when someone proposes something new it is very easy for the masses to agree. But I also believe that it is the responsibility of the United States or any other country that recognizes the threat of these extreme governments to step in if they are able. (Hannah)
I think that everyone has basically said the same thing, and I basically think the same thing, but I'll try to say it a little differently as to add some depth to the conversation. So, I think that as long as people continue to live a world where forms of hierarchy exist, there will be people whose single goal in life is to be at the top of that hierarchy, without another person at or above his/her level. Rather than a political or economic ordeal that motivates people to dictate a totalitarian state and be at that top level, it is an individual characteristic desire that attracts people to having that kind of control. And as long as there are circumstances that allow these type of people to obtain that power, then the possibility of a totalitarian state will always exist.
Like others have suggested before, I think that depends on who is being referred to by “we”. Those of us in countries like the United States, England, and other western European countries have the benefit of democratic systems that have been ingrained in our societies for decades. The possibility of some individual managing to dance through the countless checks and balances on power in a government like ours is very slim. Moreover, Americans today have what can be described as a hypersensitivity to our rights. The smallest suggestion that we are being cheated out of our rights results in a firestorm of protest (consider debates surrounding 2nd Amendment rights, for example). Thus, we could never allow any one person to consolidate the power needed by a totalitarian ruler, and therefore we have nothing to fear. In developing countries, however, the possibility of a totalitarian government forming is real for a few reasons. First, these countries are more susceptible to political, economic, and social instability for the mere fact that they have not been around for long and thus do not have a solid, established power base within their central governments. And because these countries are more susceptible to hardships, their citizens are more likely to view a totalitarian dictator in a favorable light as one to save them from the problems of the day (note that history shows that many totalitarian dictators like Hitler and Mussolini rose to power legally). We have nothing to fear, but developing countries do. (Chuma)
When people say that history repeats itself, they are right. Despite the innumerable times the world has seen people like Hitler and Stalin rise from humble beginnings, promising to change the course of history for the better, to power-hungry dictators that kill millions of people in order to achieve their goals. But still today, the people of developing countries are eager to place into power one man, adopting totalitarianism without batting an eye. It’s easy for people to buy into a man’s platform when they promise to heal all wounds and catapult their country into prosperity. This was particularly evident in the “Weimar Republic,” where the German people had just begun to experience the effects of World War I, shackled with a mountain of reparations, inflation, and distrust in neighboring countries. But when Adolph Hitler, the man who assured the German people that he would be the one to change the fate of Germany for the better, came to the scene, the German people were immediately attracted. If the circumstances are terrible enough and one man begs for the opportunity to assist in turning failure into success, most will pay attention. [RickyG]
I agree largely with what Mackenzie said. In a failing society, such as Germany with their Weimar Republic, the people will much more likely tend towards a totalitarian state, because of their strong desire for any direct power to fix their present issues, many a times, the economy. But in our modern world, we have seen the harsh realities and affects of Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany and I believe, like Mary, that we are much less likely to fall into the same traps that many of the 20th century societies did. The countries that felt such a strong and direct wake from these 20th century totalitarian states are much less likely to repeat because of the cultural taboo's that have risen from them. Germany's history makes them ashamed of their past, and in a continual desire to prove themselves better than what they were under Hitler. And while Russia praises Lenin still to this day, i strongly believe it is not because they approve and agree with his harsh and violent ways. Russia felt the harsh realities quite directly, and I highly doubt a relapse of another totalitarian state from them. (Sarah T)
Mine is in my printed version. (MDog)
A totalitarian state is still absolutely something that we need to be concerned with as many countries around the world not do have a substantial tradition of liberal democracy and live in the sorts of conditions (poverty, disease, unrest, etc.) that prompted the collapse of the moderate middle and the led to the rise of dictators in Italy and Germany during the lead up to World War II. However, I think it is rather less likely for modern, industrialized states to collapse into a dictatorship. As communications have progressed and the world has become more complicated, central governments have seized more power during the 20th century and in doing so the people of these states have insured that certain safeguards were put in place to eliminate the looming threat of totalitarianism. However, in less stable states, like many of those in Africa, totalitarianism still remains a discernible threat. (Shredz)